Characteristics of schizophrenic patients admitted to state hospitals between 1970 and 1986 were studied to examine changes in the demographic profile of the patient population and in principal sources of payment for hospitalization over the study period. Methods: Information on patients' demographic characteristics and principal payment sources was obtained from a nationally representative data base compiled about every five years by the National Institute of Mental Health. Results: Among schizophrenic patients admitted between 1970 and 1986, the proportion of African-American males increased. By 1986 patients were less likely to pay for care through private insurance or their own resources. They were more likely to receive Medicare and to lack medical insurance. Medicare use increased largely among white patients, and medical indigency largely among African-American patients. Conclusions: Changes in the characteristics of schizophrenic patients admitted to state hospitals between 1970 and 1986 may be related to changes in nosology, in the prevalence of schizophrenia, and in the types of patients likely to be admitted to state hospitals. The increase in the number of medically indigent patients accentuates the need for more adequate funding of state hospitals.