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

Margot Jackson, Brown University
Kathleen E. Kiernan, University of York

Research on the “immigrant paradox” is mostly limited to the U.S. Hispanic population and to the study of birth outcomes. Using U.S. and U.K. birth cohort studies, we: 1) examine whether the healthier behaviors of Hispanic immigrant mothers extend to other foreign-born groups; 2) consider the persistence of the paradox into early childhood; 3) examine whether nativity disparities are weaker in the U.K.; and 4) examine whether differences in mothers’ social support explain healthier behaviors among the foreign-born. We find 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 mothers’ support plays a trivial explanatory role. 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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Presented in Session 151: Mexican Immigrant Integration: Health, Family, and Identity