Unhealthy Assimilation or Persistent Health Advantage? A Longitudinal Analysis of Immigrant Health in the United States

Lu, Yao; Denier, Nicole; Wang, Julia Shu-Huah; Kaushal, Neeraj

Existing evidence on immigrant health assimilation, which is largely based on cross-sectional data, suggests that immigrants' initial health advantage erodes over time. This study uses longitudinal data to directly compare the self-rated health trajectories of immigrants and the native-born population. Data come from four panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (1996, 2001, 2004, and 2008), with each panel containing 2-4 years of health information. Results show that immigrants’ self-rated health remained stable during the period under study, but there was a concomitant decline in health for the native-born population. This result pointed to a persistent health advantage of immigrants during the period under study. The pattern held for immigrants of different length of residence and was especially salient for those originally from Latin America and Asia. Our findings that immigrants maintain their health advantage do not support the pattern of unhealthy assimilation commonly reported in cross-sectional studies.

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Social Work
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December 6, 2019