Do Mexican Immigrants "Import" Social Gradients in Health to the US?


Buttenheim AM, Goldman N, Pebley AR, Wong R, Chung C. Do Mexican Immigrants "Import" Social Gradients in Health to the US?. Social Science & Medicine. 2010;71 :1268-1276.


Greater educational attainment is consistently associated with lower mortality and better health, a pattern known as the social gradient. However, recent research suggests that Mexican-origin adults in the US have weak or flat gradients, in contrast to steep gradients for non-Hispanic whites. In this study we evaluate one hypothesis for this finding: Is the relative weakness of education gradients in health behaviors observed among Mexican-origin adults in the US due to weak gradients in the sending population? We test this “imported gradients” hypothesis with data from two nationally-representative datasets: the US National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the Mexican National Health Survey (ENSA 2000). We compare education gradients in smoking and obesity for recently-arrived Mexican immigrants in the US to the corresponding gradients in high-migration regions of Mexico. Results partially support the imported gradients hypothesis and have implications for health education and promotion programs targeted to immigrant populations to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health in the US.

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Last updated on 07/12/2018