The Healthy Immigrant Effect: Patterns and Evidence from Four Countries

  • Steven Kennedy
  • Michael P. KiddEmail author
  • James Ted McDonald
  • Nicholas Biddle


The existence of a healthy immigrant effect—where immigrants are on average healthier than the native born—is a widely cited phenomenon across a multitude of literatures including epidemiology and the social sciences. There are many competing explanations. The goals of this paper are twofold: first, to provide further evidence on the presence of the healthy immigrant effect across source and destination country using a set of consistently defined measures of health; and second, to evaluate the role of selectivity as a potential explanation for the existence of the phenomenon. Utilizing data from four major immigrant recipient countries, USA, Canada, UK, and Australia allows us to compare the health of migrants from each with the respective native born who choose not to migrate. This represents a much more appropriate counterfactual than the native born of the immigrant recipient country and yields new insights into the importance of observable selection effects. The analysis finds strong support for the healthy immigrant effect across all four destination countries and that selectivity plays an important role in the observed better health of migrants vis a vis those who stay behind in their country of origin.


Immigrant health Selection effects Smoking Obesity 


I12 I00 J61 



The authors would like to acknowledge the financial assistance provided by SSHRC and SEDAP at McMaster University. Analysis of confidential Canadian data was conducted at the NB Research Data Centre in Fredericton while analysis of confidential Australian data was conducted at the Australian Bureau of Statistics in Canberra. Views expressed here are not necessarily those of Statistics Canada, Australian Treasury, or the Australian Bureau of Statistics.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Kennedy
    • 1
  • Michael P. Kidd
    • 2
    Email author
  • James Ted McDonald
    • 3
  • Nicholas Biddle
    • 4
  1. 1.Australian Department of TreasuryCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.School of Economics and FinanceQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversity of New BrunswickNew BrunswickCanada
  4. 4.Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy ResearchANUCanberraAustralia

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