Health of immigrant children: the role of immigrant generation, exogamous family setting, and family material and social resources

Loi, S., Pitkänen, J., Moustgaard, H., Myrskylä, M., Martikainen, P.
Demography, 58:5, 1655–1685 (2021)
Open Access


Although the children of first-generation immigrants tend to have better health than the native population, the health advantage of the children of immigrant families deteriorates over generations. It is, however, poorly understood where on the generational health assimilation spectrum children with one immigrant and one native parent (i.e., exogamous families) lie, to what extent family resources explain health assimilation, and whether the process of assimilation varies across health conditions. We seek to extend our understanding of the process of health assimilation by analyzing the physical and mental health of immigrant generations, assessing the role of exogamous family arrangements, and testing the contributions of family material and social resources to children's outcomes. We use register-based longitudinal data on all children residing in Finland, born in 1986–2000, and alive in 2000; these data are free of reporting bias and loss to follow-up. We estimate the risk of receiving inpatient and outpatient care for somatic conditions, psychopathological disorders, and injuries by immigrant generation status. Our results show evidence of a negative health assimilation process, with both first- and second-generation immigrant children having a higher prevalence of physical problems and particularly mental health problems than native children that is only partially explained by family resources. We find that the children of exogamous families are at especially high risk of developing psychopathological disorders. These results provide strong support for the hypothesis that children of exogamous families constitute a specific health risk group and that the impact on children's health of family social and material resources seems to be secondary to other unobserved factors.

Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.