, Volume 53, Issue 5, pp 1555–1581 | Cite as

SES Gradients Among Mexicans in the United States and in Mexico: A New Twist to the Hispanic Paradox?

  • Hiram Beltrán-SánchezEmail author
  • Alberto Palloni
  • Fernando Riosmena
  • Rebeca Wong


Recent empirical findings have suggested the existence of a twist in the Hispanic paradox, in which Mexican and other Hispanic foreign-born migrants living in the United States experience shallower socioeconomic status (SES) health disparities than those in the U.S. population. In this article, we seek to replicate this finding and test conjectures that could explain this new observed phenomenon using objective indicators of adult health by educational attainment in several groups: (1) Mexican-born individuals living in Mexico and in the United States, (2) U.S.-born Mexican Americans, and (3) non-Hispanic American whites. Our analytical strategy improves upon previous research on three fronts. First, we derive four hypotheses from a general framework that has also been used to explain the standard Hispanic paradox. Second, we study biomarkers rather than self-reported health and related conditions. Third, we use a binational data platform that includes both Mexicans living in Mexico (Mexican National Health and Nutrition Survey 2006) and Mexican migrants to the United States (NHANES 1999–2010). We find steep education gradients among Mexicans living in Mexico’s urban areas in five of six biomarkers of metabolic syndrome (MetS) and in the overall MetS score. Mexican migrants living in the United States experience similar patterns to Mexicans living in Mexico in glucose and obesity biomarkers. These results are inconsistent with previous findings, suggesting that Mexican migrants in the United States experience significantly attenuated health gradients relative to the non-Hispanic white U.S. population. Our empirical evidence also contradicts the idea that SES-health gradients in Mexico are shallower than those in the United States and could be invoked to explain shallower gradients among Mexicans living in the United States.


Hispanic paradox Biomarkers Socioeconomic status Mexico 



Beltrán-Sánchez acknowledges support from grants by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R24 HD041022) to the California Center for Population Research at UCLA. Palloni acknowledges support from grants by the National Institute on Aging (R01 G016209 and R37 AG025216) and the Fogarty International Center (FIC) training program (5D43TW001586) to the Center for Demography and Ecology (CDE) and the Center for Demography of Health and Aging (CDHA), University of Wisconsin–Madison. The CDE is funded by NICHD Center Grant 5R24HD04783; CDHA is funded by NIA Center Grant 5P30AG017266. Riosmena acknowledges research, administrative, and computing support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)–funded University of Colorado Population Center (R24HD066613); from Grant R03HD066061 from the NICHD; and from a Poverty Center Grant awarded to the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University (Grant Number AE00101) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and awarded by Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration and a sub-award (H79 AE000101-02S1). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the DHHS or NIH. Wong acknowledges support from grants by the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG018016).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alberto Palloni
    • 2
  • Fernando Riosmena
    • 3
  • Rebeca Wong
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Community Health Sciences, Fielding School of Public Health, California Center for Population ResearchUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Center for Demography of Health and Aging University of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Population Program, Institute of Behavioral Science and Geography DepartmentUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA
  4. 4.Sealy Center on AgingUniversity of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonUSA

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