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The risk of psychological distress among unemployed and underemployed Latin-American immigrants in the US and in their countries of origin


  • Maritza Caicedo

    (Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales, UNAM)

  • Edwin van Gameren

    (El Colegio de México)

  • Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes

    (San Diego State University)


We compare unemployed and underemployed immigrants from Mexico, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic in the US with people living under similarly precarious employment conditions in the countries of origin, in order to understand better differences in psychological distress. In doing so, we deviate from and add to the literature on the Hispanic Health Paradox, addressing heterogeneity between Hispanics and comparison with people in the sending country instead of the US-based population. We follow a mixed research strategy, performing and analyzing a survey, and by organizing focus groups, allowing for a profound analysis of the importance of both objective and subjective characteristics. We find that a more precarious socioeconomic situation, financial tensions, and a reduced labor satisfaction increase depression and anxiety levels. Mexican immigrants report fewer symptoms than those in Mexico City, but this difference disappears when controlling for differences in labor conditions and the importance respondent give to work. Colombian immigrants, generally in more favorable conditions than other immigrants, report more distress than their counterparts in Colombia. Subjective factors including the intentions of migration appear relevant for the reported distress. Importantly, we encounter ambiguity regarding the connotation respondents have with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Suggested Citation

  • Maritza Caicedo & Edwin van Gameren & Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes, 2018. "The risk of psychological distress among unemployed and underemployed Latin-American immigrants in the US and in their countries of origin," Serie documentos de trabajo del Centro de Estudios Económicos 2018-07, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos.
  • Handle: RePEc:emx:ceedoc:2018-07

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    immigrants; countries of origin; unemployment; underemployment; psychological distress; depression; anxiety; qualitative research; Mexico; Colombia; Dominican Republic.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • N36 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Latin America; Caribbean

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