Arab Immigrants: A New Case for Ethnicity and Health?
Community-based studies of Arab Americans point to significant health problems among the immigrants, a finding that runs contrary to theories of immigrant selectivity. This study is the first to use nationally representative data to test this question. Using new questions that identify region of birth in the 2000 and 2001 National Health Interview Surveys, we compare the self-rated health and activity limitation of Arab immigrants to US-born white Americans and test the extent to which social, demographic, and immigrant characteristics account for observed disparities. The results find that Arab immigrants do not significantly differ from US-born whites in their self-rated health and are less likely to report limitations in activity. Length of time in the US has no composite effect on health; however, US citizenship does. Compared to the most recent immigrant arrivals, Arab immigrants who are citizens report worse health while their peers who are not officially American (non-citizens) do not, regardless of their duration of US residency. Contrary to prior studies on Arab health, we find that Arab immigrants are not uniformly disadvantaged in their health outcomes and that their health profile is more diverse than currently documented. The results also suggest that controlling for years of US residency may be insufficient for capturing the cumulative effects of acculturation on immigrant health. We conclude by suggesting avenues of future research for capturing heterogeneity among emergent ethnic populations such as Arab Americans.
Read, JNG; Amick, B; Donato, KM
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