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Reconsidering the Relationship between Age at Migration and Health Behaviors among US Immigrants: The Modifying Role of Continued Cross-border Ties

Immigration and Health

ISBN: 978-1-78743-062-4, eISBN: 978-1-78743-061-7

ISSN: 1057-6290

Publication date: 7 January 2019


Age at migration is commonly utilized as a proxy measure for assimilation in health behavior research. We reconsider this approach by examining the role of continued connection with places of origin on alcohol use, an important marker of health behavior and overall population health. Cross-border connections may buffer the association between earlier age at migration and alcohol use by providing an alternative channel of influence for behavioral norms. Alternatively, a stress and coping perspective on cross-border ties suggests potentially countervailing adverse impacts of these connections on alcohol use. We used data from the 2002/2003 National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS) (n = 1,641/1,630 Asian and Latino origin respondents, respectively). We first estimated the association between age at migration (child/adolescent versus adult migrant) and any past-year alcohol use. We subsequently tested the interaction between age at migration and two measures of cross-border connections. All models were stratified by region of origin and gender. For Latin American-origin women, cross-border ties were associated with increased risk of past-year alcohol use among those who migrated early in life. In contrast, Asian-origin men and women who migrated as adults and had contact with family and friends abroad had the lowest predicted probabilities of past-year alcohol use. The results among Asians support the idea that cross-border ties may be alternative influences on health behavior outcomes, particularly for adult migrants. Overall, we find qualified support for both transnational and assimilationist perspectives on alcohol use behaviors among US immigrants – as well as the interaction between these two frameworks. The joint influences of cross-border ties and age at migration were observed primarily for immigrant women, and not always in expected directions. We nevertheless urge future research to consider both US and country of origin influences on a wider range of health and health behavior outcomes for immigrants, as well as the potential intersection between US and cross-border connections.




At the time of conducting this research and writing the manuscript, J. M. T. was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program.


Torres, J.M., Ro, A. and Sudhinaraset, M. (2019), "Reconsidering the Relationship between Age at Migration and Health Behaviors among US Immigrants: The Modifying Role of Continued Cross-border Ties", Immigration and Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 19), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 17-45.



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