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Mothers’ Investments in Child Health in the U.S. and U.K.: A Comparative Lens on the Immigrant 'Paradox'

  • Margot Jackson

    (Brown University)

  • Sara McLanahan

    (Princeton University)

  • Kathleen Kiernan

    (University of York)

Registered author(s):

    Research on the immigrant paradox healthier behaviors and outcomes among more socioeconomically disadvantaged immigrants is mostly limited to the U.S. Hispanic population and to the study of birth outcomes. Using data from the Fragile Families Study and the Millennium Cohort Study, we expand our understanding of this phenomenon in several ways. First, we examine whether the healthier behaviors of Hispanic immigrant mothers extend to other foreign-born groups, including non-Hispanic immigrant mothers in the U.S. and white, South Asian, black African and Caribbean, and other (largely East Asian) immigrants in the U.K, including higher SES groups. Second, we consider not only the size of the paradox at the time of the child's birth, but also the degree of its persistence into early childhood. Third, we examine whether nativity disparities are weaker in the U.K., where a much stronger welfare state makes health information and care more readily accessible. Finally, we examine whether differences in mothers’ instrumental and social support both inside and out of the home can explain healthier behaviors among the foreign-born. The results suggest that healthier behaviors among immigrants are not limited to Hispanics or to low SES groups; that nativity differences are fairly persistent over time; that the immigrant advantage is equally strong in both countries; and that the composition and strength of mothers’ support plays a trivial explanatory role in both countries. These findings lead us to speculate that what underlies nativity differences in mothers’ health behaviors may be a strong parenting investment on the part of immigrants.

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    Paper provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. in its series Working Papers with number 1210.

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    Date of creation: Dec 2009
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:pri:crcwel:wp09-24-ff
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    1. Alberto Palloni, 2006. "Reproducing inequalities: Luck, wallets, and the enduring effects of childhood health," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(4), pages 587-615, November.
    2. Chiswick, Barry R, 1978. "The Effect of Americanization on the Earnings of Foreign-born Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 897-921, October.
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