, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 993-1012
Date: 04 Dec 2012

Social Patterning in Body Mass Index (BMI) Among Contemporary Immigrant Groups: The Emergence of a Gradient

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Abstract

Although adult body mass index (BMI) displays considerable social patterning worldwide, the direction and strength of the relationship between BMI and socioeconomic status (SES) varies cross nationally. We examine social gradients in BMI for contemporary U.S. immigrants and evaluate whether their SES-BMI gradient patterns are shaped by underlying gradients in immigrant origin countries and whether they are further patterned by time in the United States. Data come from the New Immigrant Survey, the only nationally representative survey of contemporary immigrants. Results indicate that the inverse SES-BMI gradients observed among this population are strongest among women originating in highly developed countries. After arrival in the United States, however, inverse gradient patterns are driven largely by higher weights among low-SES individuals, particularly those from less-developed countries. We conclude that although certain immigrants appear to be uniquely protected from weight gain, poorer individuals from less-developed countries are doubly disadvantaged; this raises concerns about worsening inequalities in both diet and behavior between the rich and poor upon arrival to the United States.