Contraceptive Desert? Black-White Differences in Characteristics of Nearby Pharmacies

Race differences in contraceptive use and in geographic access to pharmacies are well established. We explore race differences in characteristics of nearby pharmacies that are likely to facilitate (or not) contraceptive purchase.

Study Design
We conducted analyses with two geocode-linked datasets: (1) the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life (RDSL) project, a study of a random sample of 1003 women ages 18-19 living in a county in Michigan in 2008-09; and (2) the Community Pharmacy Survey, which collected data on 82 pharmacies in the county in which the RDSL study was conducted.

Although young African-American women tend to live closer to pharmacies than their white counterparts (1.2 miles to the nearest pharmacy for African Americans vs. 2.1 miles for whites), those pharmacies tend to be independent pharmacies (59 vs. 16%) that are open fewer hours per week (64.6 vs. 77.8) and have fewer female pharmacists (17 vs. 50%), fewer patient brochures on contraception (2 vs. 5%), more difficult access to condoms (49% vs. 85% on the shelf instead of behind glass, behind the counter, or not available), and fewer self-check-out options (3 vs. 9%). More African-American than white women live near African-American pharmacists (8 vs. 3%). These race differences are regardless of poverty, measured by the receipt of public assistance.

Relative to white women, African-American women may face a “contraception desert,” wherein they live nearer to pharmacies, but those pharmacies have characteristics that may impede the purchase of contraception.