Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 181–204 | Cite as

Investigating Health Selection Within Mexico and Across the US Border

  • Christina J. Diaz
  • Liwen Zeng
  • Ana P. Martinez-Donate


Despite acquiring lower levels of attainment and earnings, Mexican immigrants exhibit favorable health outcomes relative to their native-born counterparts. And while scholars attempt to reconcile this so-called paradoxical relationship with a variety of theoretical and empirical approaches, patterns of selective migration continue to receive considerable attention. The present study contributes to the literature on health selection by extending the healthy migrant hypothesis in a number of ways. First, we rely on a unique combination of datasets to assess whether the healthy are disproportionately more likely to migrate. We use the latest wave of the Mexican Family Life Survey and the 2013 Migrante Study, a survey that is representative of Mexican-born persons who are actively migrating through Tijuana. Pooling these data also allow us to differentiate between internal and US-bound migrants to shed light on their respective health profiles. Results provide modest support for the healthy migrant hypothesis. Although those who report better overall health are more likely to migrate, we find that the presence of certain chronic conditions increases migration risk. Our findings also suggest that internal migrants are healthier than those traveling to the US, though this is largely because those moving within Mexico reflect a younger and more educated population. This study takes an important step in uncovering variation across migrant flows and highlights the importance of the timing at which health is measured in the migration process.


Mexico Health selection Healthy migrant hypothesis Internal migration 



The Migrante study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant R01 HD046886). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina J. Diaz
    • 1
  • Liwen Zeng
    • 1
  • Ana P. Martinez-Donate
    • 2
  1. 1.School of SociologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Dornslife School of Public HealthDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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