Immigration and health among non-Hispanic whites: The impact of arrival cohort and region of birth.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Immigration is central to our understanding of U.S. racial and ethnic health disparities, yet relatively little is known about the health of white immigrants - a group whose ethnic origins have become increasingly diverse. To the extent that whites are included in social stratification research, they are typically used as the reference category for gauging health inequities, with little attention to diversity among them. This study addresses this question using nationally representative data from the American Community Survey (2008-2017). We disaggregate non-Hispanic whites by nativity, region of birth, and period of arrival in the U.S. and examine differences in physical disability among adults aged 40 and older (n = 12, 075, 638). The analysis finds that foreign-born whites have a slightly lower prevalence of disability than U.S.-born whites, and this varies by arrival cohort. Immigrants who arrived in the 1981-1990 and 1991-2000 cohorts have a smaller advantage over U.S.-born whites than immigrants in the earlier and later cohorts. Compositional changes in the region of birth of white immigrants, especially the influx of eastern Europeans and Middle Easterners during the 1980s and 1990s, explained this variation. These findings challenge the oft-assumed notion that whites are a monolithic group and highlight growing intra-ethnic heterogeneity that is obscured by the aggregate category. Our findings also suggest that the standard practice of using whites as the reference for benchmarking health inequities may mask health inequities not only among them, but also between whites and other racial and ethnic populations.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Read, JG; West, JS; Kamis, C

Published Date

  • February 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 246 /

Start / End Page

  • 112754 -

PubMed ID

  • 31887628

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-5347

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0277-9536

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112754


  • eng