Do Country-of-Origin Characteristics Help Explain Variation in Health Among Black Immigrants in the United States?



Black immigrants in the United States migrate from a diverse set of countries, including countries in the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Europe, and Africa. This study evaluates whether disparate conditions in black immigrants’ birth countries help explain variation in their postmigration health.


Using data on black immigrants from the 2001 to 2012 waves of the March Current Population Survey (CPS) along with country data from the 2009 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme, this study examines whether social, economic, and health conditions in black immigrants’ birth countries have an independent effect on their postmigration health.


Results show that health is more favorable among black immigrants who migrate from countries with a relatively high combined gross enrollment ratio for primary, secondary, and tertiary education; low levels of income inequality; and high life expectancies at birth. After controlling for country conditions, relative to non-African immigrants, African immigrants report the best health.


Future studies on the health of immigrants should incorporate characteristics of immigrants’ birth countries. This information could provide valuable insights into the roles of selective migration and birth-country conditions in explaining variation in immigrants’ postmigration health.

Last updated on 08/30/2016