Is the United States Bad for Children's Health? Risk and Resilience among Young Children of Immigrants

Jennifer Van Hook, Nancy Landale, & Marianne Hillemeier
Date of Publication: 
July, 2013
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

Is the United States Bad for Children's Health was written for a health policy symposium convened by MPI in January of 2013. The goal of the symposium was to frame the major policy and practice issues affecting children, birth through age 10, with immigrant parents.

As childhood health disparities are associated with delays in cognitive development and poor integration outcomes later in life, an examination of the health status of these children may have important public policy implications. This paper reviews the available research on health outcomes for immigrant children with particular focus on the children of Mexican immigrants. These children experience greater health risks than most other children.  Although the epidemiological paradox is well documented, the new data is showing a considerably more nuanced picture especially when you dig down to the level of national origin groups. Like other children with immigrant parents, children of Mexican parents, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, show a lower incidence of asthma. However, Mexican children with the disease are highly disadvantaged in access to high-quality care for chronic health conditions. Mexican children also have the highest prevalence of obesity among all racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. The authors review four factors that help to explain the poor health outcomes of children of Mexican immigrants. The factors are limited English proficiency of many parents, low socioeconomic status of many families, parental legal status, and the dispersion of Mexican immigrants to new destinations where they may be viewed with resentment and suspicion.  As children of immigrants now make up almost one-quarter of all children, promoting the health of children in immigrant families will maximize the long-term well-being and productivity of tomorrow's adults. (Abstract courtesy of Dr. Nicholas V. Montalto)

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Van Hook, J.,Landale, N., & Hillemeier, M. (2013). Is the United States Bad for Children's Health? Risk and Resilience among Young Children of Immigrants. Migration Policy Institute. Washington:DC Retrieved from: