Immigrant health paradox among Latino youth: a search for explanations


Allen, Chenoa & McNeely, Clea (2014). Immigrant health paradox among Latino youth: a search for explanations. AHPA 142nd Annual Meeting & Expo. New Orleans, LA.


First-generation Latino immigrants in the U.S. have lower morbidity than later generations of Latinos. This study tested two potential explanations for this “immigrant paradox:” 1) close family and community ties may protect first-generation Latinos’ health but break down among later generations,1 and 2) immigrants may adopt unhealthy behaviors as they acculturate.2
This study used data from Latino participants who completed waves I and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (n=743 in public use data set; 19% first-generation, 42% second, 38% third-plus). Using ordered logit models and tests of mediation, we examined whether social and family connections at wave I (age 11-21) and health behaviors at wave IV (age 24-32) mediated the association between immigrant generation and adult self-rated health, controlling for demographic characteristics and SES. Final analyses will be conducted with the contractual data set, and analyses will be conducted by national origin.

Second-generation Latinos had significantly poorer self-rated health than first-generation (mean(SD)=3.42(.98), 3.77(.89), respectively, range 1-5). Third-plus generation fared slightly better than second (mean(SD)=3.52(.95)). Family closeness, social belonging, teacher support, smoking, alcohol use, binge drinking, and exercise predicted self-rated health but did not mediate the association between generation and health. In sum, this analysis did not support the aforementioned explanations of the immigrant paradox. Because this is a sample of Latino children, it is unlikely that immigration selection accounts for differences among generations. Future research should examine discrimination, a key factor that may mediate downward assimilation of non-white immigrants,3 to help explain the immigrant paradox.


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

AHPA 142nd Annual Meeting & Expo


Allen, Chenoa
McNeely, Clea

Year Published


City of Publication

New Orleans, LA

Reference ID