Longitudinal associations between ethnic enclaves, neighborhood processes, and Latino immigrant youth depression


Lee, Meng-Jung; Liechty, Janet M.; & Choi, Shinwoo (2014). Longitudinal associations between ethnic enclaves, neighborhood processes, and Latino immigrant youth depression. Society for Social Work and Research Annual Conference. San Antonio, TX.


Purpose: Social disorganization theory hypothesizes that concentrated poverty erodes positive social resources and processes, which in turn engenders fear and mistrust among residents thus correlated with higher depression. However, immigrants appear to have better health outcomes than their non-immigrant counterparts despite high rates of neighborhood poverty. Previous research has identified Latino ethnic concentration (ethnic enclaves) as a protective factor that buffers the adverse effects of neighborhood poverty on depression, but who benefits from ethnic enclaves and the effects of neighborhood processes on depression have not been adequately addressed. In addition, few existing studies have examined the impact of ethnic enclaves on adolescents and on their mental health outcomes such as depression. First, we hypothesized that longitudinal associations between Latino concentration and lower depression will be stronger among immigrant (1st and 2ndgeneration) than non-immigrant Latino youth. Second, we hypothesized that salubrious neighborhood social processes will be associated with lower depression among Latino youth.

Methods:We use the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the largest nationally representative sample of adolescents in the U.S. Our analytic sample (n=3,525) consisted of Latino adolescence at wave 1 and at wave 2 one year later. OLS regressions were performed using STATA survey commands to correct for the clustered sampling design of Add Health (Chantala & Tabor, 1999). We conducted hierarchical regression analysis to examine the effects of individual factors, family factors, neighborhood social processes, and finally ethnic enclaves at Wave 1 on Latino adolescent depression at Wave 2, controlling for demographic and other background factors. All analyses were stratified by immigrant status.

Results: Our first hypothesis was supported. Latino concentration predicted decreased depressive symptoms among immigrant Latino youth (β =-.05, p<. 05) but not among non-immigrant Latino youth. Our second hypothesis was not supported since neighborhood social processes were not significantly predicting Latino adolescents’ depressive symptoms at wave 2 in either group. Several individual and family factors predicted lower depression in Latino youth. Self-esteem predicted depression among immigrant and non-immigrant Latino youth (β =-.071, p<. 05; β =-.09, p<. 05, respectively). After controlling for neighborhood process and poverty, adolescent religious attendance predicted lower depressive symptoms among both immigrant and non-immigrant Latino youth (β =-.058, p<. 05; β =-.079, p<. 01, respectively). Youth-mother supportive relationships also predicted lower depressive symptoms among non-immigrant Latino youth (β =-071, p<. 05) but not immigrant youth.

Implications: Neighborhood ethnic concentration, often considered an indicator of poverty, appears to be beneficial for immigrant Latino adolescent mental health but is unrelated to non-immigrant Latino mental health. Supportive family relationships may be more influential for non-immigrant than immigrant youth with regards to reducing depressive symptoms. The results have implications for social work practice when working with Latino youth. In order to provide an effective intervention, multiple-level factors in their lives can be examined holistically including the individual, family and neighborhood factors.



Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

Society for Social Work and Research Annual Conference


Lee, Meng-Jung
Liechty, Janet M.
Choi, Shinwoo

Year Published


City of Publication

San Antonio, TX

Reference ID