Racial and ethnic disparities in emergency department wait times for children: analysis of a nationally representative cohort

Published:October 21, 2022DOI:



      : To evaluate the association of race and ethnicity with wait times for children in US emergency departments (ED).


      : We performed a cross-sectional study of ED encounters of children (<18 years) from 2014-2019 using a multistage survey of nonfederal US ED encounters. Our primary variable of interest was composite race/ethnicity: non-Hispanic White (NHW), non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, and all others. Our outcome was ED wait time in minutes. We evaluated the association between race/ethnicity and wait time in Weibull regression models that sequentially added variables of acuity, demographics, hospital factors, and region/urbanicity.


      : We included 163,768,956 survey-weighted encounters. In univariable analysis, Hispanic children had a lower hazard ratio (HR) of progressing to evaluation (HR 0.84, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.76-0.93) relative to NHW children, indicating longer ED wait times. This association persisted in serial multivariable models incorporating acuity, demographics, and hospital factors. This association was not observed when incorporating variables of hospital region and urbanicity (HR 0.91, 95% CI 0.83-1.00). In subgroup analysis, Hispanic ethnicity was associated with longer wait times in pediatric EDs (HR 0.76, 95% CI 0.63-0.92), non-metropolitan EDs (HR 0.75, 95% CI 0.64-0.89), and the Midwest region (HR 0.77, 95% CI 0.69-0.87). No differences in wait times were observed for children of Black race or other races.


      : Hispanic children experienced longer ED wait times across serial multivariable models, with significant differences limited to pediatric, metropolitan, and Midwest EDs. These results highlight the presence of disparities in access to prompt emergency care for children.

      What's New

      : This muti-center study of US general and pediatric EDs demonstrates that Hispanic children experience longer ED wait times than non-Hispanic White children in multivariable analysis. In subgroup analysis, these findings were limited to pediatric, non-metropolitan, and Midwestern EDs.


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