, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 1075–1103 | Cite as

Tied Together: Adolescent Friendship Networks, Immigrant Status, and Health Outcomes

  • Cassie McMillanEmail author


This study examines the social integration of adolescent immigrants by directly analyzing the composition of their friendship networks. Using statistical network analysis, I first consider whether adolescents are more likely to befriend peers who share their immigrant generation status in a large, diverse sample of 7th through 12th graders from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (n = 67,586). Next, I test whether having a higher proportion of same-generation friends can protect immigrant youth from experiencing negative health outcomes and adopting risky behaviors. Results indicate that adolescents are more likely to form friendships with peers who share their immigrant generation status and that this tendency is particularly strong for first-generation immigrants. Furthermore, immigrant youth with greater proportions of same-generation friends are less likely to report several negative health behaviors and outcomes. My findings suggest that same-generation friendships can serve as a protective mechanism for immigrant youth, which may help explain the existence of an immigrant health paradox.


Adolescent immigrants Social networks Immigrant paradox Health outcomes 



I am grateful for helpful feedback and comments from Diane Felmlee, Jennifer Van Hook, Ashton Verdery, Sal Oropesa, Stephen Matthews, Nancy Luke, and the Penn State Immigration Working Group. A previous version of this research was presented at the Population Association of America Annual Meeting (April 2017, Chicago, IL). This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by Grant P01HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. No direct support was received from Grant P01HD31921 for this analysis. Additionally, I acknowledge assistance provided by the Population Research Institute at The Pennsylvania State University, which is supported by an infrastructure grant by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P2CHD041025). This work was also supported by The Pennsylvania State University and the National Science Foundation under IGERT Award #DGE-1144860, Big Data Social Science.

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and CriminologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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