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Epidemiological Paradox or Immigrant Vulnerability? Obesity Among Young Children of Immigrants

Listed author(s):
  • Elizabeth Baker

    ()

  • Michael Rendall
  • Margaret Weden
Registered author(s):

    According to the “immigrant epidemiological paradox,” immigrants and their children enjoy health advantages over their U.S.-born peers—advantages that diminish with greater acculturation. We investigated child obesity as a potentially significant deviation from this paradox for second-generation immigrant children. We evaluated two alternate measures of mother’s acculturation: age at arrival in the United States and English language proficiency. To obtain sufficient numbers of second-generation immigrant children, we pooled samples across two related, nationally representative surveys. Each included measured (not parent-reported) height and weight of kindergartners. We also estimated models that alternately included and excluded mother’s pre-pregnancy weight status as a predictor. Our findings are opposite to those predicted by the immigrant epidemiological paradox: children of U.S.-born mothers were less likely to be obese than otherwise similar children of foreign-born mothers; and the children of the least-acculturated immigrant mothers, as measured by low English language proficiency, were the most likely to be obese. Foreign-born mothers had lower (healthier) pre-pregnancy weight than U.S.-born mothers, and this was protective against their second-generation children’s obesity. This protection, however, was not sufficiently strong to outweigh factors associated or correlated with the mothers’ linguistic isolation and marginal status as immigrants. Copyright Population Association of America 2015

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s13524-015-0404-3
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    Article provided by Springer & Population Association of America (PAA) in its journal Demography.

    Volume (Year): 52 (2015)
    Issue (Month): 4 (August)
    Pages: 1295-1320

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:52:y:2015:i:4:p:1295-1320
    DOI: 10.1007/s13524-015-0404-3
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.springer.com

    Web page: http://www.populationassociation.org/

    Order Information: Web: http://www.springer.com/economics/journal/13524

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    1. Katherine Magnuson & Claudia Lahaie & Jane Waldfogel, 2006. "Preschool and School Readiness of Children of Immigrants," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 87(s1), pages 1241-1262.
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    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. Katherine Magnuson & Claudia Lahaie & Jane Waldfogel, 2006. "Preschool and School Readiness of Children of Immigrants," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 87(5), pages 1241-1262.
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    14. Borjas, George J., 2011. "Poverty and Program Participation among Immigrant Children," Scholarly Articles 8052147, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
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