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Most Uninsured Were Working-Age Adults

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In 2017, the number of people without health insurance increased to 28.0 million, up from 27.3 million the year before, according to the latest American Community Survey data released today.

Who are these millions of people who lack health insurance coverage? Are they young or old? Are they more likely to live in one region of the country? Are they poorer or less educated than those who are insured?

So who were the uninsured? They tended to be 19 to 64 years old, male, have less than a high school education and/or have lower incomes.

Age Of The Uninsured

Working-age adults made up a much larger share of the uninsured population than any other age group. In fact, most uninsured people (84.6 percent) were 19- to 64-year-olds.

The two largest groups in that age range are 26- to 34-year-olds and 35- to 44-year-olds. About 1 in 4 uninsured people were 26 to 34 years old, and about 1 in 5 people ages 34 to 44.

But that’s not all the figure below tells us.

  • Over half of all people without health insurance coverage were male (54.6 percent), even though the U.S. population has more women than men.
  • About 4 in 10 uninsured people were non-Hispanic white, while nearly 6 in 10 people in the United States were non-Hispanic white.
  • Other races and ethnic groups made up the majority of the uninsured population but less than half (39.3 percent) of the total population.
  • The uninsured were disproportionately concentrated in the South.

The new data also show that 14.0 percent of those without health insurance are under 19 years old. That number may seem a bit high but it is relatively low considering that children were almost one-quarter of the U.S. population last year.

By contrast, only a small fraction of the uninsured — just 1.4 percent — were age 65 and over.

Social and Economic Factors

Most people without health insurance coverage had a high school education or less. People who did not complete high school made up a much larger part of the uninsured population (26.9 percent) than the overall population (11.8 percent).

The uninsured population was also disproportionately more likely to live in poverty. About 1 in 3 uninsured workers were in service occupations, compared with about 1 in 5 workers in the U.S. overall.

Profile of the Uninsured

So who were the uninsured? They tended to be 19 to 64 years old, male, have less than a high school education and/or have lower incomes. This profile is fairly different from the profile of the overall U.S. population.

The large sample size of the American Community Survey provides a detailed look at the characteristics of populations such as the uninsured.

To find out more about the uninsured population, such as employment characteristics, disability status, nativity and residence, or about the uninsured population in smaller geographic areas (states, counties and zip codes), see Table S2702 "Selected Characteristics of the Uninsured in the United States”.

Edward Berchick is a demographer in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.

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Page Last Revised - October 18, 2021
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