A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Uninsured U.S. Citizens

Q: How many of the uninsured are U.S. citizens?

A: The vast majority of the uninsured are citizens from working families.


I have heard there are 47 million people without health insurance. How many of these are U.S. citizens? What is the makeup of the remainder?


The "47 million uninsured" figure is from the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau report. In 2007, the Census Bureau reported that the number actually declined somewhat, to 45.7 million people under 65 (the age of Medicare eligibility).

Ever since health coverage became a major issue in the 2008 presidential campaign, we’ve received periodic questions from readers who wonder whether a large percentage of the uninsured are non-citizens or illegal immigrants. They’re not. According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, 79 percent of the uninsured are native or naturalized U.S. citizens. The remaining 21 percent accounts for both legal and illegal immigrants.

Kaiser does acknowledge that non-citizens are more likely to be uninsured than citizens, because they are often restricted from public coverage and "are more likely to have low-wage jobs and work for firms that do not offer coverage." (Around 60 percent of Americans have insurance through their employers.) According to the Census Bureau, 43.8 percent of non-citizens are uninsured, versus only 12.7 percent of native-born citizens and 17.6 percent of naturalized citizens. But saying that non-citizens are more likely to be uninsured is not the same as saying that most of the uninsured are non-citizens.

What else can we say about the uninsured? More than 80 percent are from families in which at least one person works (70 percent from families where at least one person works full-time, and an additional 12 percent from families with a part-time worker). Two thirds are near or below the poverty line, making less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Only a small number (20 percent) are children, but nearly half are below the age of 30. Non-Hispanic whites make up two thirds of the population but less than half of the uninsured, and they are also more likely than any other race to have private insurance. The Kaiser Family Foundation has released a report, incorporating 2007 Census data, that covers these and other characteristics of the uninsured.

-Jess Henig


Kaiser Family Foundation. "The Uninsured: A Primer." Oct. 2008.

Carmen DeNavas-Walt et. al. "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007." United States Census Bureau. Aug. 2008.