(364 Kb -- Requires Adobe Acrobat)
Of the 281.4 million persons living in the United States in 2002, 143.4 million (50.9%) are female, and 29.5% of all U.S. citizens are of racial or ethnic minority groups1. Of the 143.4 million females, 42.1 million females (or 29.3%) are members of racial and ethnic minority groups2. Although these women experience many of the same health problems as White women, as a group, they are in poorer health, they use fewer health services, and they continue to suffer disproportionately from premature death, disease, and disabilities. Many also face tremendous social, economic, cultural, and other barriers to achieving optimal health.
Women of color in the United States represent many diverse populations. They encompass five major groups, which are listed in descending order of the size of their populations: African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander3. The 2000 census (newly revised) now distinguishes between race and ethnicity by collecting data on race for African American/Black, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander women, and ethnicity by counting people as either "Hispanic or Latino" or "Not Hispanic or Latino." This separation is made because people of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race. The 2000 census defines race according to the race or races with which they most closely identify - for example, either (or a combination of):
Ethnicity, on the other hand, can be either:
These are two separate concepts - race and ethnicity. For example, a person may consider her or himself Black race, but also of Latino ethnicity. Hispanic or Latino, and not Hispanic or Latino, may be of any race5.
The population known as the majority or Caucasian population is referred to as White throughout this document. Approximately, 107.7 million, or 75.1%, of American females are White, not of Hispanic origin6. For details on the census categories and methodology, please see www.census.gov.
Each group of minority women is made up of subgroups, which have diverse languages, cultures, degrees of acculturation, and histories.
Racial and Ethnic Breakdown of Women in the United States:
African American or Black women have a common African heritage. They may also have roots in the United States, Great Britain, the Caribbean, or other countries. In 2000, slightly more than 18 million (18,193,005), or 12.7%, of all females living in the United States were African American, not of Hispanic origin7.
Hispanic women, or Latinas, are a multiracial ethnic group, which means persons of Hispanic origin can be of any race. Many Hispanic or Latina women are recent immigrants. Most Hispanics or Latinas in the United States are of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican Republic, Central American, or South American descent. In 2000, Hispanic females of any race-numbering more than 17 million (17,114,023) - comprised approximately 12.5% of the U.S. female population8.
AsianAmerican women are women with origins in the Far East, including Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, including Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. The 5.3 million females (5,294,257) in this population group who are not of Hispanic origin comprised 3.7% of all U.S. females in 2000. Asian American women account for 12.6% of all women of color9.
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women can originate from any one of 22 islands and may speak as many as 1,000 languages. In the 2000 census, more than 196,000 women in the United States identified themselves as Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander alone. When the census included Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander in combination with another racial group, the number rose to almost 435,000 women10.
American Indian/Alaska Native women are identified as being members of any of more than 556 federally recognized tribes as well as individuals from state-recognized or unrecognized tribal organizations. Major subgroups of this population are American Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts11. Slightly more than 1 million females (1,241,974), or .87%, of all U.S. females belonged to this population group in 200012. (Note: Percentages of these populations may not equal 100% due to the rounding of numbers.)
Because of this diversity, minority women's access to health care, their health behaviors, and their health status can vary widely between and within these groups. For example, minority women who have recently immigrated to America face more obstacles to accessing health care than other minority women in their group. The health status of women within the five major minority groups may also differ significantly, depending on income, education, and acculturation.
When minority women are influenced by, and subsequently adopt, the behaviors of a different culture-in this case, Anglo-American culture-they are considered to be more acculturated. A greater degree of acculturation has both positive and negative effects on the health risks and health outcomes of these women.
[Next Section] [Endnotes]