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The shape of things to come? Obesity prevalence among foreign-born vs. US-born Mexican youth in California


  • Buttenheim, Alison M.
  • Pebley, Anne R.
  • Hsih, Katie
  • Chung, Chang Y.
  • Goldman, Noreen


Obesity among the Mexican-origin adult population in the US has been associated with longer stays in the US and with being US- vs. Mexican-born, two proxies for acculturation. This pattern is less clear for Mexican-origin children and young adults: recent evidence suggests that it may be reversed, with foreign-born Mexican youth in the US at higher risk of obesity than their US-born Mexican–American counterparts. The objective of this study is to evaluate the hypothesis that the immigrant advantage in obesity prevalence for Mexican-origin populations in the US does not hold for children and young adults. We use data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (N = 1143) and the California Health Interview Survey (N = 25,487) for respondents ages 4–24 to calculate the odds of overweight/obesity by ethnicity and nativity. We find support for the hypothesis that overweight/obesity prevalence is not significantly lower for first-generation compared to second- and third-generation Mexican-origin youth. Significantly higher obesity prevalence among the first generation was observed for young adult males (ages 18–24) and adolescent females (ages 12–17). The previously-observed protective effect against obesity risk among recent adult immigrants does not hold for Mexican-origin youth.

Suggested Citation

  • Buttenheim, Alison M. & Pebley, Anne R. & Hsih, Katie & Chung, Chang Y. & Goldman, Noreen, 2013. "The shape of things to come? Obesity prevalence among foreign-born vs. US-born Mexican youth in California," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 1-8.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:78:y:2013:i:c:p:1-8
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.10.023

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2005.076810_5 is not listed on IDEAS
    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. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2005.062752_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1995:85:1:20-25_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Abraído-Lanza, Ana F. & Chao, Maria T. & Flórez, Karen R., 2005. "Do healthy behaviors decline with greater acculturation?: Implications for the Latino mortality paradox," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(6), pages 1243-1255, September.
    6. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2007.116103_5 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. 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.
    8. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2006.098418_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Buttenheim, Alison & Goldman, Noreen & Pebley, Anne R. & Wong, Rebeca & Chung, Chang, 2010. "Do Mexican immigrants "import" social gradients in health to the US?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(7), pages 1268-1276, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Dondero, Molly & Van Hook, Jennifer, 2016. "Generational status, neighborhood context, and mother-child resemblance in dietary quality in Mexican-origin families," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 150(C), pages 212-220.
    3. Janevic, T. & Borrell, L.N. & Savitz, D.A. & Echeverria, S.E. & Rundle, A., 2014. "Ethnic enclaves and gestational diabetes among immigrant women in New York City," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 180-189.


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