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Circumcision Rates Highest In Midwest, Lowest in West

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: January 16, 2008

Rates of circumcision vary widely across the nation, a phenomenon likely linked to regional variations in racial, ethnic and immigrant populations, as well as insurance coverage, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Circumcision is the surgical removal of foreskin from the penis of an infant boy. The operation is usually performed for cultural, religious, or cosmetic reasons rather than for medical reasons. Some organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, maintain there is insufficient evidence that routine circumcision is medically necessary. However, there is research suggesting that some health benefits may be gained, including a slightly decreased risk of developing penile cancer, a lower chance of urinary tract infections in newborns, and a potentially lessened risk of HIV transmission.

AHRQ's new report is an analysis of hospital-based circumcisions in 2005. Among its findings:

  • In the West, only 31 percent of newborn boys were circumcised in hospitals in 2005. That compares with 75 percent in the Midwest, 65 percent in the Northeast, and 56 percent in the South. Factors influencing circumcision rates may include insurance coverage and immigration from Latin America and other areas where circumcision is less common.
  • Nationwide, about 56 percent of newborn boys—1.2 million infants—were circumcised. The national rate has remained relatively stable for a decade. It peaked at 65 percent in 1980.
  • About 60 percent of circumcisions were billed to private insurance, 31 percent were billed to Medicaid, nearly 3 percent were charged to other public programs, and about 4 percent were uninsured.

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in Circumcision Performed in U.S. Community Hospitals, 2005. The report uses statistics from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of January 2008


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