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The Healthy Immigrant Effect and Immigrant Selection: Evidence from Four Countries

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  • Steven Kennedy
  • James Ted McDonald
  • Nicholas Biddle

Abstract

The existence of a healthy immigrant effect – where immigrants are on average healthier than the native-born – is now a well accepted phenomenon. There are many competing explanations for this phenomenon including health screening by recipient countries, healthy behaviour prior to migration followed by the steady adoption of new country (less) healthy behaviours, and immigrant self-selection where healthier and wealthier people tend to be migrants. We explore the last two of these explanations for the healthy immigrant effect by examining the health outcomes, health behaviours, and socio-economic characteristics of immigrants from a range of source countries in the US, Canada, UK and Australia. We find evidence of strong positive selection effects for immigrants from all regions of origin in terms of education. However, we also find evidence that self-selection in terms of unobservable factors is an important determinant of the better health of recent immigrants.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven Kennedy & James Ted McDonald & Nicholas Biddle, 2006. "The Healthy Immigrant Effect and Immigrant Selection: Evidence from Four Countries," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 164, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:164
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    File URL: http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/sedap/p/sedap164.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Guillermina Jasso & Douglas S. Massey & Mark R. Rosenzweig & James P. Smith, 2004. "Immigrant Health--Selectivity and Acculturation," Labor and Demography 0412002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Mireille Laroche, 2000. "Health Status and Health Services Utilization of Canada's Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Populations," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 26(1), pages 51-75, March.
    3. 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.
    4. Barro, Robert J & Lee, Jong-Wha, 2001. "International Data on Educational Attainment: Updates and Implications," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(3), pages 541-563, July.
    5. Uitenbroek, Daan G. & Verhoeff, Arnoud P., 2002. "Life expectancy and mortality differences between migrant groups living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(9), pages 1379-1388, May.
    6. Deri, Catherine, 2005. "Social networks and health service utilization," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 1076-1107, November.
    7. Borjas, George J, 1987. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 531-553, September.
    8. McDonald, James Ted & Kennedy, Steven, 2004. "Insights into the 'healthy immigrant effect': health status and health service use of immigrants to Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(8), pages 1613-1627, October.
    9. Nicholas Biddle & Steven Kennedy & James Ted Mcdonald, 2007. "Health Assimilation Patterns Amongst Australian Immigrants," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 83(260), pages 16-30, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    immigrant health; selection effects; smoking; obesity;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I00 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General - - - General
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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