The Intergenerational Production of the Health Gradient: Evidence among Mexican Immigrant Families

Christina Diaz, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Jenna Nobles, University of Wisconsin at Madison

In the United States, scholars have documented a socioeconomic gradient in health among a diverse set of sub-populations, including children, urban residents, and ethnic minorities. In a striking counterexample, the gradient in health is much flatter among foreign-born residents. Second-generation adults, however, exhibit gradients that more closely approach those observed among other native-born residents. Our study looks for the origins of this puzzle by reconsidering it as inherently intergenerational. Using data from two longitudinal studies, the ECLS-B and the NLSY-97, we measure parent and child characteristics in Mexican immigrant families at the beginning of children’s lives and as they age into adulthood. We look for the period in life when parents’ and children’s health patterns begin to diverge and consider two possible explanations for this divergence. By studying how a health gradient is produced in a single generation, the research helps inform the processes underlying U.S. health disparities.

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Presented in Session 158: Race, Ethnicity, Immigration, and Child Health and Well-Being