Immigration, Generation, and Children’s Weight

Jennifer Van Hook, Pennsylvania State University
Elizabeth H. Baker, Pennsylvania State University
Claire Altman, Pennsylvania State University

In contrast to most research on immigrant health, researchers have yet to find a clear association between child obesity and exposure to the American environment. In grappling with this puzzle, we investigate the roles of selection into migration streams and cultural resistance as additional factors affecting obesity among children of immigrants. We offer some preliminary evidence for these ideas based on data for children of Mexican origin who reside in Mexico or in the United States. Our findings suggest that selection into immigration streams does not account for the relatively high levels of obesity observed among the children of Mexican immigrants. However, the results do not support the idea that simply living the United States accounts for Mexican-Americans’ high obesity rates either. Rather, the results are more consistent with the idea that another factor—which we refer to here as cultural resistance—may be at work.

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Presented in Session 151: Mexican Immigrant Integration: Health, Family, and Identity