, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 425–436 | Cite as

Simulating the Effects of Acculturation and Return Migration on the Maternal and Infant Health of Mexican Immigrants in the United States: A Research Note

  • Miguel Ceballos


A significant body of research on minority health shows that although Latino immigrants experience unexpectedly favorable outcomes in maternal and infant health, this advantage deteriorates with increased time of residence in the United States. This study evaluates the underlying assumptions of two competing hypotheses that explain this paradox. The first hypothesis attributes this deterioration to possible negative effects of acculturation and behavioral adjustments made by immigrants while living in the United States, and the second hypothesis attributes this deterioration to the mechanism of selective return migration. Hypothetical probabilistic models are simulated for assessing the relationship between duration and birth outcomes based on the assumptions of these two hypotheses. The results are compared with the empirical research on the maternal and infant health of first-generation, Mexican-origin immigrant women in the United States. The analysis provides evidence that a curvilinear pattern of duration and birth outcomes can be explained by the joint effects of both acculturation and selective return migration in which the former affects health status over the longer durations, and the latter affects health status at shorter durations.


Acculturation Selection Return migration Immigration Maternal health 



This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant No. SES-0082704), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grants No. 3-F31-HD08740-02, L60 MD000933-01), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Reference ID 030613), and funding from the International Migration Program of the Social Science Research Council with funds provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The author acknowledges appreciation for comments on earlier drafts from Rodrigo Cantarero, Gustavo Carlo, and Julia McQuillan, and to Mike Spittel and Alberto Palloni for contributions at its early conceptual development. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of these individuals, agencies, or foundations.

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Nebraska–LincolnLincolnUSA

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