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The Consequences of Migration to the United States for Short-Term Changes in the Health of Mexican Immigrants

Abstract

Although many studies have attempted to examine the consequences of Mexico-U.S. migration for Mexican immigrants’ health, few have had adequate data to generate the appropriate comparisons. In this article, we use data from two waves of the Mexican Family Life Survey (MxFLS) to compare the health of current migrants from Mexico with those of earlier migrants and nonmigrants. Because the longitudinal data permit us to examine short-term changes in health status subsequent to the baseline survey for current migrants and for Mexican residents, as well as to control for the potential health selectivity of migrants, the results provide a clearer picture of the consequences of immigration for Mexican migrant health than have previous studies. Our findings demonstrate that current migrants are more likely to experience recent changes in health status—both improvements and declines—than either earlier migrants or nonmigrants. The net effect, however, is a decline in health for current migrants: compared with never migrants, the health of current migrants is much more likely to have declined in the year or two since migration and not significantly more likely to have improved. Thus, it appears that the migration process itself and/or the experiences of the immediate post-migration period detrimentally affect Mexican immigrants’ health.

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge support for this project from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01HD051764, R24HD047879, R03HD040906, and R01HD047522) and from CONACYT-SEDESOL (2004-01). We would like to thank Germán Rodríguez for statistical advice and Erika Arenas for assistance in data collection and preparation of the data set for this analysis.

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Correspondence to Noreen Goldman.

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Goldman, N., Pebley, A.R., Creighton, M.J. et al. The Consequences of Migration to the United States for Short-Term Changes in the Health of Mexican Immigrants. Demography 51, 1159–1173 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-014-0304-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-014-0304-y

Keywords

  • Immigrant
  • Health status
  • Self-rated health
  • Selection
  • Mexico