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Black Caribbean immigrants

Migration and Health

Du Bois’ (1899) insight that immigrant status affects the health profile of a population is relevant to understanding contemporary patterns of health. Asians and Latinos have lower overall age adjusted mortality rates than whites. In the 2000 U.S. Census, 67% of Asians and 40% of Latinos were foreign born (Malone et al. 2003). Processes linked to migration make an important contribution to the observed mortality rates for these groups. National data reveal that immigrants of all racial groups have lower rates of adult and infant mortality than their native born counterparts (Hummer et al.1999Singh and Miller 2004Singh and Yu 1996). Moreover, across multiple immigrant groups, with increasing exposure to American society, health tends to decline. This pattern is especially surprising for Latinos. Hispanic immigrants, especially those of Mexican background, have high rates of poverty and low levels of access to health insurance in the United States. However, their levels of health are equivalent and sometimes superior to that of the white population. This pattern has been called the Hispanic paradox (Markides and Eschbach 2005).

Sociological research has shed important light on the complex association between migration and health. First, research has shown that when a broad range of health outcomes are considered, a complex pattern emerges. For example, although Hispanics have comparable levels of infant mortality to whites, women of all Hispanic groups have a higher risk of low birth weight and prematurity than whites (Frisbie, Forbes, and Hummer 1998). Similarly, in the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), virtually all immigrants reported better physical health status, such as chronic physical conditions than the native born (Williams and Mohammed 2008). In contrast, for psychological distress, many immigrant groups (most Latino groups, Pacific Islanders and Koreans) reported worse health than the native born, while other immigrants groups (blacks, Puerto Ricans and Filipinos) had better health and still others (Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese) did not differ from their native born counterparts.