Talking Points on Health Care #16: Facts about the Uninsured – Part II

According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 38.4 million Americans, or about 14% of the total population of 276.5 million, were uninsured in 2000.1 However, contrary to what may be commonly assumed, the uninsured are not the same as the unemployed.

The data show that about three-fifths of the uninsured, (59.3% or 22.8 million) are adults with jobs, while approximately another one-fifth (21.9%, or 8.4 million) are children. In fact, only less than about one-fifth of the uninsured (7.2 million or 18.8%) are actually non-working adults.2

In addition, many uninsured children and non-working adults are in families headed by a worker. 24.3 million uninsured individuals (or 63% of the uninsured) are in families, where the family head works a full-time, full-year job, and another 8.3 million are in families where the family head works part of the year and/or part-time. Thus, about 85% (32.6 million) of the uninsured are in families with some participation in the workforce. Only, 15% (5.9 million) are in families where the head-of-household did not work at all.3

Of the 22.8 million workers without health insurance, 2.8 million (12.3%) are self-employed and 1.2 million (5.3%) are employed by a federal, state or local government agency. The remaining four-fifths are employed by private, though principally smaller, businesses. 4.8 million, (21%) work for businesses with less than 10 employees. Another 3.2 million (14%) work for firms with between 10 and 24 employees and the same number work for companies with between 25 and 99 employees. Thus, three-fifths of uninsured workers (61.3% or 14 million) are either self-employed or work for businesses with fewer than 100 employees.4

These data suggest that the problem of uninsurance is related not so much to unemployment, but rather to the difficulties that the self-employed and workers in smaller businesses face in affording health insurance.


1 Robert J. Mills, “Health Insurance Coverage: 2000,” Current Population Reports, U.S. Census Bureau, September, 2001. A copy of the report can be obtained at:

2 Paul Fronstin, “Sources of Health Insurance and Characteristics of the Uninsured: Analysis of the March 2001 Current Population Survey,” Employee Benefit Research Institute, Ttable 2, “Non-Elderly Americans With Selected Sources of Health Insurance, by Age and Own Work Status, and Work Status of Family Head, 2000”. A paper or electronic copy of this report may be purchased at:

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid, Table 4, “Workers Ages 18-64 With Selected Sources of Health Insurance, by Firm Size, 2000.”

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