Immigrants Are Healthier until They Stay Here a While

As early as the 1970s, researchers found that immigrants lived several years longer than American-born whites even though they tended to have less education and lower income, factors usually associated with worse health. That gap has grown since 1980…Evidence is mounting that the second generation does worse. Exploratory estimates based on data from 2007 to 2009…show that Hispanic immigrants live 2.9 years longer than American-born Hispanics.

[One study] found that immigrants had at least a 20 percent lower overall cancer mortality rate than their American-born counterparts.

Mortality rates from heart disease were about 16 percent lower, for kidney disease 18 percent lower, and for liver cirrhosis 24 percent lower.

This is from The NYT.

Comments (12)

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  1. Johnny says:

    Interesting study.. The diet and stress level of the average American probably doesn’t help.

  2. Bubba says:

    I wonder if they’ve controlled for illicit activities such as gang violence among second generation immigrants.

  3. August says:

    “And health habits in Mexico are starting to look a lot like those in the United States. Researchers are beginning to wonder how long better numbers for the foreign-born will last. Up to 40 percent of the diet of rural Mexicans now comes from packaged foods, according to Professor Valdez.”

    Sounds like American food culture is unhealthy, surprise surprise.

  4. Baker says:

    The diabetes numbers are crazy.

    “Nearly twice as many Hispanic adults as non-Hispanic white adults have diabetes that has been diagnosed, a rate that researchers now say may have a genetic component”

  5. Donna says:

    Umm. That looks like a selection bias to me – only the healthiest immigrate. In the second generation, you will be including a broader diversity of individuals including those born with various illnesses and those that developed illness before the average immigration age. Probably has nothing to do with diet or stress.

  6. JD says:


    You are right that the dying wouldn’t immigrate, but the healthier (more prosperous) probably wouldn’t be either. There is a selection bias, but this is viable and provides interesting results for comparing health based on income levels across countries (i.e. American average wealth vs. Immigrants wealth). In this case, more money isn’t translating into better health.

  7. Jake says:

    I wonder how this is correlated with use of government assistance programs.

  8. Lloyd says:

    We have many freedoms here that would help weaken our health, such as the freedom to have a variety of poor diets. It is a personal choice issue.

  9. Sam says:

    Lloyd…it’s not just personal choice, however. Consider people’s actions are vastly conformed by their environment and culture. If our culture is so used to and acceptable of processed and fast foods, then it becomes more than a personal choice issue.

  10. Sam says:

    I think less people should be immigrating nowadays. In many cases their lifestyles don’t dramatically go up and as for Latin Americans, who are the majority of immigrants, “freedom” is not usually what they’re looking for when moving, it’s a better standard of living. They don’t realize that in many cases their standard of living won’t go up and may even go down in some respects.

  11. JD says:


    I understand the perspective that you are coming from, but I’m not sure how it contradicts Lloyd’s statement. You are obviously right, we are significantly influenced by our culture, but that is still a matter of choice. In fact, culture is a matter of collective choice. People should be allowed to choose. If someone chooses to be unhealthy, they should have that right. If we as individuals make that decision and, thus, the culture is unhealthy, we should have that right.

    Is it your position that government should step in and alleviate choice?

  12. Erik says:

    Beans and rice with a little meat mixed with lots of physical labor keeps a body strong…