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Is migration to Canada associated with unhealthy weight gain? Overweight and obesity among Canada's immigrants

  • McDonald, James Ted
  • Kennedy, Steven

This paper aims to address a gap in our understanding of immigrant health issues by examining the determinants of excess weight--an important indicator of current and future health. The paper combines data drawn from recent large health surveys to identify how the weight of recent immigrants compares with that of native-born people, and how the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese changes with additional years in Canada. We find evidence that on average, immigrants are substantially less likely to be obese or overweight upon arrival in Canada. These measures converge slowly to native-born levels, but there is marked variation by the ethnicity of the immigrant. Since changes in weight will reflect choices with respect to diet and activity, the extent to which overweight and obesity rates change with years in Canada may reflect the extent to which immigrants interact with or are influenced by members of their ethnic group who reside in the same area. We find evidence that ethnic group social network effects exert a quantitatively important influence on the incidence of being overweight and obese for members of most ethnic minorities, tempering the process of adjustment to Canadian lifestyle norms that may be driving excess weight gain with additional years in Canada.

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

Volume (Year): 61 (2005)
Issue (Month): 12 (December)
Pages: 2469-2481

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Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:61:y:2005:i:12:p:2469-2481
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  1. Guillermina Jasso & Douglas S. Massey & Mark R. Rosenzweig & James P. Smith, 2004. "Immigrant Health--Selectivity and Acculturation," Labor and Demography 0412002, EconWPA.
  2. Marianne Bertrand & Erzo F.P. Luttmer & Sendhil Mullainathan, 1998. "Network Effects and Welfare Cultures," NBER Working Papers 6832, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Salant, Talya & Lauderdale, Diane S., 2003. "Measuring culture: a critical review of acculturation and health in Asian immigrant populations," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 71-90, July.
  4. John Cawley & Sheldon Danziger, 2004. "Obesity as a Barrier to the Transition from Welfare to Work," NBER Working Papers 10508, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Bruce Newbold, K. & Danforth, Jeff, 2003. "Health status and Canada's immigrant population," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(10), pages 1981-1995, November.
  6. George J. Borjas, 1998. "Immigration and Welfare Magnets," NBER Working Papers 6813, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. McDonald, James Ted & Kennedy, Steven, 2004. "Insights into the 'healthy immigrant effect': health status and health service use of immigrants to Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(8), pages 1613-1627, October.
  8. Gordon-Larsen, Penny & Harris, Kathleen Mullan & Ward, Dianne S. & Popkin, Barry M., 2003. "Acculturation and overweight-related behaviors among Hispanic immigrants to the US: the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(11), pages 2023-2034, December.
  9. Manski, C.F., 1991. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: the Reflection Problem," Working papers 9127, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  10. Zhang, Qi & Wang, Youfa, 2004. "Socioeconomic inequality of obesity in the United States: do gender, age, and ethnicity matter?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(6), pages 1171-1180, March.
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