The association between low socioeconomic status (SES) in minority groups and higher incidence and mortality from cervical cancer was examined using two large U.S. databases. With cases from 1973 to 1992, all registries of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) (except Hawaii) were used to calculate incidence rates of in situ and invasive cervical cancers by race group. SES indicators were derived from the Regional Economic Information System, Department of Commerce. Higher levels of SES indicators were related to decreased risk and lower incidence of invasive cancers in all race groups, but especially white and black populations, and to increased incidence of in situ cancer in these populations. Results suggest that higher SES status is related to a decrease in invasive cervical cancer, but an increase in in situ cervical cancer in recent years. These findings may explain the racial differences in cervical cancer incidence and help target intervention programs.