Patient education in asthma management is important; however, there is little known about the characteristics of patients receiving asthma education or how often primary care physicians provide it. The objective of the study was to identify the characteristics of patients receiving asthma education. It was a cross-sectional study using 2001 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data. The study included 1230 physicians providing office-based ambulatory medical care in the United States. Patients in the study (weighted n = 11 279 952) were those diagnosed with asthma based on International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision code receiving care from a pediatrician, internist or a family physician. Main and secondary outcome measures were asthma education ordered or provided. Multivariate analysis indicated that asthma patients receiving education were more likely to have office visits > 20 min [odds ratio (OR) = 3.934], be seen for an acute reason (OR = 2.268), be seen in follow-up rather than an initial visit (OR = 1.780), live in rural rather than metropolitan areas (OR = 1.507), have public rather than private insurance (OR = 1.276) and be seen in privately owned practices (OR = 1.248). Bivariate analyses indicated that patients seeing family physicians were more likely than those seeing internists or pediatricians to receive education. Patient education was not uniformly provided. Family physicians provided more asthma education than either pediatricians or internists. Future research should investigate the quality of education provided.