Skip to main content


Gutierrez, Carmen M. (2018). The Institutional Determinants of Health Insurance: Moving away from Labor Market, Marriage, and Family Attachments under the ACA. American Sociological Review, 83(6), 1144-1170.


For more than a century, the American welfare state required working-age adults to obtain social welfare benefits through their linkages to employers, spouses, or children. Recent changes to U.S. healthcare policy prompted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), however, provide adults with new pathways for accessing a key form of social welfare--health insurance--decoupled from employers, spouses, and children. Taking advantage of this fundamental shift in the country's system of social welfare provision, I use data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) to explore patterns of health insurance coverage from before and after the ACA became active in 2014. The results show that the salience of labor market, marriage, and family attachments as pathways to coverage significantly declined in the first three years following passage of the ACA. By providing adults with a new route to coverage decoupled from their institutional attachments, the ACA helped narrow health insurance inequalities across gender, race and ethnicity, and education. Given the strong association between health insurance and health outcomes, the results from this study raise important questions about the centrality of institutional attachments for our knowledge of health inequalities.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

American Sociological Review


Gutierrez, Carmen M.