Explaining Low Mortality among U.S. Immigrants Relative to Native-Born Americans: The Role of Smoking

Laura Blue, Princeton University
Andrew Fenelon, University of Pennsylvania

In many developed countries, immigrants live longer –- that is, have lower death rates at most or all ages -– than native‐born residents. This paper tests whether different levels of smoking‐related mortality can explain part of this “healthy immigrant effect” in the United States, and part of the related U.S. “Hispanic paradox”: the tendency for Hispanics to outlive non‐Hispanic whites. Using data from vital statistics and the national census, we calculate U.S. lung-cancer death rates in 2000 for the foreign‐ and native‐born populations, and for the Hispanic and non‐Hispanic‐white populations. From this we extrapolate total smoking‐related mortality for each of these groups in that year. Our estimates show smoking can explain 58% of migrants’ advantage in life expectancy at 50 among men, and 71% among women. Smoking can explain 88% of the difference in life expectancy at 50 between Hispanic and non-Hispanic-white men, and 75% of Hispanics’ advantage among women.

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Presented in Poster Session 5