Rethinking the Effect of Duration on Immigrant Health: Evidence from the National Health Interview Survey (2006-2008) and the New Immigrants Survey (2003)

Jing Li, University of Texas at Austin

It is well documented in the health literature that the longer immigrants have lived in the U.S., the worse their health and the higher the risk of death to their infants. Despite evidence suggesting that acculturation can greatly benefit immigrant by improving their socioeconomic standing, previous studies consistently have failed to evidence a positive relationship between duration and immigrant health. My paper aims to investigate this contradiction. First, I theoretically examine how the choice of using duration to measure acculturation constitutes a methodological weakness that compromises the conclusions reached. That is, how duration captures is the net effect of two countervailing forces of acculturation on health over time. Second, by employing two national datasets, I further take this problem apart and provide an evidence-based explanation for why we always find negative duration effects on health. Results have significant implications for the “negative acculturation” hypothesis.

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Presented in Session 23: New Data and Methods in Migration