MPIDR Working Paper
Health of immigrant children: the role of immigrant generation, exogamous family setting, and family material and social resources
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2019-009, 36 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (May 2019)
Children of first-generation immigrants tend to have better health than the native population, but over generations, the health advantage of immigrant children deteriorates. It is, however, poorly understood how family resources can explain health assimilation, whether the process of assimilation varies across health conditions, and where on the generational health assimilation spectrum children with one immigrant and one native parent (exogamous families) lie. 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 contribution of family material and social resources on the offspring’s outcomes. We use register-based longitudinal data from a 20% random sample of Finnish households with children born in years 1986-2000, free of reporting bias and loss to follow-up. We estimate the risk of being hospitalized for somatic conditions, psychopathological disorders, and injuries by immigrant generation status. Our results show a negative health assimilation process with higher prevalence of physical and, in particular, mental health problems among second-generation immigrant children than among native children, and to first-generation immigrant 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, especially for psychopathological disorders, and that the role of the family seems to be is secondary to other unobserved factors.