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Immigrant generation, socioeconomic status, and economic development of countries of origin: A longitudinal study of body mass index among children


  • Van Hook, Jennifer
  • Stamper Balistreri, Kelly


Prior research has yielded mixed evidence of a relationship between immigrant generational status or acculturation and overweight or obesity among children of immigrants. This study examined socioeconomic status (SES) and economic development of the sending country as additional factors influencing children body mass index (BMI) and as moderating the relationship between parental generational status and BMI. Using data from the kindergarten cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey (N=16,664 children) carried out in the USA, the research estimated growth curve models and tested the significance of interaction terms between generational status (i.e., children of the 1.0 generation, who arrived at age 12 or older; children of the 1.5 generation, who arrived between the ages of birth and 11; and children of natives), SES, and the country of origin's gross domestic product per capita. Results indicate that the children of the 1.0 generation from higher-income countries tended to gain more weight than children from lower-income countries. The relationship between family SES and weight gain was positive among the first-generation children and stronger among those from lower-income countries than from higher-income countries. Weight gain was positively associated with generation only among lower SES children from low-income countries. It was negatively associated with generation for higher SES children from low-income countries. The results are consistent with a conceptual model of BMI assimilation that links global nutrition patterns to the levels and socioeconomic variations in BMI among the 1.0-generation and their children, and conceptualizes assimilation as occurring within socioeconomic strata. This approach leads to the expectation that overweight is likely to be positively associated with generation among those from low-income countries (as measured by GDP/capita) with low SES but negatively associated among those from low-income countries with high SES.

Suggested Citation

  • Van Hook, Jennifer & Stamper Balistreri, Kelly, 2007. "Immigrant generation, socioeconomic status, and economic development of countries of origin: A longitudinal study of body mass index among children," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(5), pages 976-989, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:65:y:2007:i:5:p:976-989

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Leatherman, Thomas L. & Goodman, Alan, 2005. "Coca-colonization of diets in the Yucatan," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(4), pages 833-846, August.
    2. Heather Antecol & Kelly Bedard, 2006. "Unhealthy assimilation: Why do immigrants converge to American health status levels?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 43(2), pages 337-360, May.
    3. 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.
    4. Arcia, E. & Skinner, M. & Bailey, D. & Correa, V., 2001. "Models of acculturation and health behaviors among Latino immigrants to the US," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 41-53, July.
    5. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2002:92:4:525-529_9 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Cheah, Charissa S.L. & Van Hook, Jennifer, 2012. "Chinese and Korean immigrants’ early life deprivation: An important factor for child feeding practices and children’s body weight in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(5), pages 744-752.
    2. 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.
    3. Michelle L. Frisco & Susana Quiros & Jennifer Hook, 2016. "One Size May Not Fit All: How Obesity Among Mexican-Origin Youth Varies by Generation, Gender, and Age," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(6), pages 2031-2043, December.
    4. repec:pri:crcwel:wp12-05-ff is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Gundersen, Craig & Kreider, Brent, 2009. "Bounding the effects of food insecurity on children's health outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 971-983, September.
    6. Melissa L. Martinson & Sara McLanahan & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, 2012. "Race/ Ethnic and Nativity Disparities in Child Overweight in the United States and England," Working Papers 1376, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    7. Elizabeth Baker & Michael Rendall & Margaret Weden, 2015. "Epidemiological Paradox or Immigrant Vulnerability? Obesity Among Young Children of Immigrants," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(4), pages 1295-1320, August.


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