Testing for the Role of Prejudice in Emergency Departments Using Bounceback Rates

We propose and empirically implement a test for the presence of racial prejudice among emergency department (ED) physicians based on the bounceback rates of the patients who were discharged after receiving diagnostic tests during their initial ED visits. A bounceback is defined as a return to the ED within 72 hours of being initially discharged. Based on a plausible model of physician behavior, we show that differential bounceback rates across patients of different racial groups who are discharged after receiving diagnostic tests from their ED visits are informative of the racial prejudice of the physicians.  Applying the test to administrative data of ED visits from California and New Jersey, we do not find evidence of prejudice against black and Hispanic patients. Our finding suggests that, at least in the emergency department setting, taste based discrimination does not play an important role in the racial disparities in health care.

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