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Demographic and Psychosocial Characteristics, Air Pollution Exposure, and Housing Mobility of Mexican Immigrant Families



People of color and lower socioeconomic status groups in the USA, including those of Mexican origin, are exposed to higher concentrations of air pollution, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Associations were examined between neighborhood air pollution levels and the psychosocial and demographic characteristics of linguistically isolated Mexican-origin immigrant families. Housing mobility and changes in air pollution levels due to changes in residence were also examined.


A sample of 604 linguistically isolated Mexican-origin families in central TX provided data on demographic and psychosocial experiences. Outdoor air pollution concentrations at participants’ home addresses were based on high-resolution estimates of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and its constituents. Movers were identified as families whose residential addresses changed during the study period; these participants were further grouped and compared based on the change in their residential PM2.5 concentration from before to after their move.


Lower PM2.5 concentrations were associated with reports of more ethnic discriminatory experiences, higher socioeconomic status, and higher perceived neighborhood safety. Among the 23% of families who changed residences, PM2.5 concentrations were generally lower at the new family address. Families with mothers reporting a greater sense of neighborhood safety or acculturation levels tended to move from one area low in air pollutants to another, and mothers reporting the lowest levels of neighborhood safety or acculturation tended to move from one area high in air pollutants to another.


There are limits to assimilation for Mexican immigrant families. Living in more advantaged neighborhoods is associated with experiencing better air quality, but this advantage may come at the cost of experiencing more ethnic discrimination.

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Support for this research was provided through awards to Su Yeong Kim from (1) National Science Foundation, Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, 1651128 and 0956123, (2) National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities 1R21MD012706-01A1 and 3R21MD-012706-02S1, (3) Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 5R03HD060045-02, (4) Russell Sage Foundation, 2699 (5) Spencer Foundation, 10023427 (6) Hogg Foundation for Mental Health JRG-102, (7) Office of the Vice President for Research and Creative Grant and Special Research Grant from the University of Texas at Austin, (8) College of Natural Sciences Catalyst Grant from the University of Texas at Austin, and (9) a Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 5P2CHD042849-20 grant awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

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Authors and Affiliations



Su Yeong Kim drafted a portion of the manuscript, contributed to data collection, and conceptualized and designed the study. Elizabeth C. Matsui conceptualized and designed the study, provided a specific part of the manuscript, and provided critical reviews of the manuscript. Wen Wen conducted the data analysis and drafted a portion of the manuscript. Hin Wing Tse drafted a portion of the manuscript. Sarah E. Chambliss conducted data analysis, conceptualized and designed the data, and drafted a portion of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Su Yeong Kim.

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This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Texas at Austin, protocol number 2015–01-0006.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Kim, S.Y., Matsui, E.C., Wen, W. et al. Demographic and Psychosocial Characteristics, Air Pollution Exposure, and Housing Mobility of Mexican Immigrant Families. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities (2022).

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  • Air pollution
  • PM2.5 concentrations
  • Mexican immigrants
  • Discrimination
  • Acculturation