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Limited English proficiency and psychological distress among Latinos and Asian Americans


  • Zhang, Wei
  • Hong, Seunghye
  • Takeuchi, David T.
  • Mossakowski, Krysia N.


English proficiency is increasingly recognized as an important factor that is related to the mental health of immigrants and ethnic minorities. However, few studies have examined how the association between English proficiency and mental health operates and whether the pattern of association is similar or different among various ethnic minority groups. This paper investigates how limited English proficiency directly and indirectly affects psychological distress through pathways of discrimination for both Latinos and Asian Americans in the United States. Findings suggest that, for Asian Americans, limited English proficiency has an independent relationship with psychological distress over and above demographic variables, socioeconomic and immigration-related factors and discrimination. For Latinos, however, socio-demographic variables and discrimination show a stronger association than limited English proficiency in affecting psychological distress. Different forms of discrimination – everyday discrimination and racial/ethnic discrimination – are equally important for both ethnic groups. Findings underscore the differential role of limited English proficiency for the mental health of Asian Americans and Latinos and suggest the distinctive racial experiences and backgrounds of these two ethnic groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhang, Wei & Hong, Seunghye & Takeuchi, David T. & Mossakowski, Krysia N., 2012. "Limited English proficiency and psychological distress among Latinos and Asian Americans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(6), pages 1006-1014.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:6:p:1006-1014
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.05.012

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Leu, Janxin & Yen, Irene H. & Gansky, Stuart A. & Walton, Emily & Adler, Nancy E. & Takeuchi, David T., 2008. "The association between subjective social status and mental health among Asian immigrants: Investigating the influence of age at immigration," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(5), pages 1152-1164, March.
    2. Matthew Hall & George Farkas, 2008. "Does human capital raise earnings for immigrants in the low-skill labor market?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 45(3), pages 619-639, August.
    3. Yoo, Hyung Chol & Gee, Gilbert C. & Takeuchi, David, 2009. "Discrimination and health among Asian American immigrants: Disentangling racial from language discrimination," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(4), pages 726-732, February.
    4. Teresa Casey & Christian Dustmann, 2008. "Intergenerational Transmission of Language Capital and Economic Outcomes," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(3), pages 4660-4687.
    5. Gee, Gilbert C. & Spencer, Michael & Chen, Juan & Yip, Tiffany & Takeuchi, David T., 2007. "The association between self-reported racial discrimination and 12-month DSM-IV mental disorders among Asian Americans nationwide," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(10), pages 1984-1996, May.
    6. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2009.178012_6 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Jasso, Guillermina, 2011. "Migration and Stratification," IZA Discussion Papers 5904, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2008.156976_8 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Hoyt Bleakley & Aimee Chin, 2004. "Language Skills and Earnings: Evidence from Childhood Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 481-496, May.
    10. Mulvaney-Day, Norah E. & Alegría, Margarita & Sribney, William, 2007. "Social cohesion, social support, and health among Latinos in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 477-495, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Miao Li, 2016. "Pre-migration Trauma and Post-migration Stressors for Asian and Latino American Immigrants: Transnational Stress Proliferation," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 129(1), pages 47-59, October.
    2. Ro, Annie & Bostean, Georgiana, 2015. "Duration of U.S. stay and body mass index among Latino and Asian immigrants: A test of theoretical pathways," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 39-47.


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