Journal Article

Migrant health convergence and the role of material deprivation

Demographic Research, 40:32, 933–962 (2019)
Open Access


Background: Cross-national research shows that although immigrants initially have better health than their native-born counterparts, their health deteriorates over time in their destination countries, converging to natives’ health (health convergence). Explanations include acculturation to negative health behaviors, exposure to low socioeconomic status, and social exclusion.

Objective: This study is the first to examine how material deprivation, a measure of relative disadvantage that includes elements of SES and social exclusion, interacts with duration of stay to affect immigrants’ health convergence.

Methods: Using data from Italy (2009), we assess the association between duration of stay and three health outcomes, and we estimate interaction effects of duration of stay with material deprivation.

Results: We find immigrants’ duration of stay is negatively associated with self-rated health, chronic morbidity, and activity limitations. Immigrants’ health converges to natives’, net of controls. Convergence is most dramatic for self-rated health, but the pattern is also reflected in chronic morbidity and activity limitations. The health of immigrants who live in conditions of material deprivation is more similar to natives’ health at shorter durations of stay, compared to their not-deprived counterparts.

Contribution: The paper contributes to a better understanding of the role of social exclusion – measured as material deprivation – on the immigrant–native health convergence process. It is the first to assess the interaction of material conditions and duration of stay in a host country.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.