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Beyond acculturation: Immigration, discrimination, and health research among Mexicans in the United States


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  • Viruell-Fuentes, Edna A.
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    Evidence suggests that, despite their lower socio-economic status, certain health outcomes are better for first-generation Mexican immigrants than their US-born counterparts. Socio-cultural explanations for this apparent epidemiological paradox propose that culture-driven health behaviors and social networks protect the health of the first generation and that, as immigrants acculturate, they lose these health-protecting factors. However, the prominence granted to acculturation within these explanations diverts attention from structural and contextual factors, such as social and economic inequalities, that could affect the health of immigrants and their descendants. The aim of this study is to offer a conceptual redirection away from individual-centered acculturation models towards a more complex understanding of immigrant adaptation in health research. To this end, 40 qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with first- and second-generation Mexican immigrant women in Southeastern Michigan. The women's narratives highlighted a key process linked to their integration into US society, in which the second generation experienced a more pervasive and cumulative exposure to "othering" than the first generation. The findings point to "othering" and discrimination as potential pathways through which the health of immigrants and their descendants erodes. The paper concludes by proposing a conceptual model that locates "othering" processes within a structural framework, and by drawing implications for research on immigrant health and on discrimination and health.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 65 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 7 (October)
    Pages: 1524-1535

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:65:y:2007:i:7:p:1524-1535

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    Keywords: Immigration Latinos Othering Discrimination Acculturation USA Women;


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    Cited by:
    1. Boulogne, Roxane & Jougla, Eric & Breem, Yves & Kunst, Anton E. & Rey, Grégoire, 2012. "Mortality differences between the foreign-born and locally-born population in France (2004–2007)," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(8), pages 1213-1223.
    2. Britton, Marcus L. & Shin, Heeju, 2013. "Metropolitan residential segregation and very preterm birth among African American and Mexican-origin women," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 37-45.
    3. Bauer, Amy M. & Chen, Chih-Nan & Alegría, Margarita, 2012. "Associations of physical symptoms with perceived need for and use of mental health services among Latino and Asian Americans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(6), pages 1128-1133.
    4. John, Dolly A. & de Castro, A.B. & Martin, Diane P. & Duran, Bonnie & Takeuchi, David T., 2012. "Does an immigrant health paradox exist among Asian Americans? Associations of nativity and occupational class with self-rated health and mental disorders," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(12), pages 2085-2098.
    5. Abdulrahim, Sawsan & James, Sherman A. & Yamout, Rouham & Baker, Wayne, 2012. "Discrimination and psychological distress: Does Whiteness matter for Arab Americans?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(12), pages 2116-2123.
    6. Acevedo-Garcia, Dolores & Sanchez-Vaznaugh, Emma V. & Viruell-Fuentes, Edna A. & Almeida, Joanna, 2012. "Integrating social epidemiology into immigrant health research: A cross-national framework," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(12), pages 2060-2068.
    7. Shell, Alyssa Marie & Peek, M. Kristen & Eschbach, Karl, 2013. "Neighborhood Hispanic composition and depressive symptoms among Mexican-descent residents of Texas City, Texas," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 56-63.
    8. Ayón, Cecilia & Marcenko, Maureen O., 2008. "Depression among Latino children in the public child welfare system," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(12), pages 1366-1375, December.
    9. Asad, Asad L. & Anteby, Michel & Garip, Filiz, 2014. "Who donates their bodies to science? The combined role of gender and migration status among California whole-body donors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 53-58.
    10. Van Hook, Jennifer & Baker, Elizabeth & Altman, Claire E. & Frisco, Michelle L., 2012. "Canaries in a coalmine: Immigration and overweight among Mexican-origin children in the US and Mexico," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 125-134.
    11. Lebrun, Lydie A., 2012. "Effects of length of stay and language proficiency on health care experiences among Immigrants in Canada and the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(7), pages 1062-1072.
    12. Vang, Zoua M. & Elo, Irma T., 2013. "Exploring the health consequences of majority–minority neighborhoods: Minority diversity and birthweight among native-born and foreign-born blacks," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 56-65.
    13. Arline Geronimus & John Bound & Annie Ro, 2014. "Residential Mobility Across Local Areas in the United States and the Geographic Distribution of the Healthy Population," Demography, Springer, vol. 51(3), pages 777-809, June.
    14. Ullmann, S. Heidi & Goldman, Noreen & Pebley, Anne R., 2013. "Contextual factors and weight change over time: A comparison between U.S. Hispanics and other population sub-groups," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 40-48.
    15. Viruell-Fuentes, Edna A. & Miranda, Patricia Y. & Abdulrahim, Sawsan, 2012. "More than culture: Structural racism, intersectionality theory, and immigrant health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(12), pages 2099-2106.
    16. Creighton, Mathew J. & Goldman, Noreen & Pebley, Anne R. & Chung, Chang Y., 2012. "Durational and generational differences in Mexican immigrant obesity: Is acculturation the explanation?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 300-310.


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