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Socioeconomic Status and Acculturation: Why Mexican Americans are Heavier than Mexican Immigrants and Whites

Immigration and Health

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

ISSN: 1057-6290

Publication date: 7 January 2019

Abstract

Social scientists often speculate that both acculturation and socioeconomic status are factors that may explain differences in the body weight between Mexican Americans and whites and between Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants, yet prior research has not explicitly theorized and tested the pathways that lead both of these upstream factors to contribute to ethnic/nativity disparities in weight. We make this contribution to the literature by developing a conceptual model drawing from Glass and McAtee’s (2006) risk regulation framework. We test this model by analyzing data from the 1999–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Our conceptual model treats acculturation and socioeconomic status as risk regulators, or social factors that place individuals in positions where they are at risk for health risk behaviors that negatively influence health outcomes. We specifically argue that acculturation and low socioeconomic status contribute to less healthy diets, lower physical activity, and chronic stress, which then increases the risk of weight gain. We further contend that pathways from ethnicity/nativity and through acculturation and socioeconomic status likely explain disparities in weight gain between Mexican Americans and whites and between Mexican immigrants and whites. Study results largely support our conceptual model and have implications for thinking about solutions for reducing ethnic/nativity disparities in weight.

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Acknowledgements

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by Grants from the National Institutes of Health (R24 HD041025 and P01 HD062498).

Citation

Frisco, M.L., Martin, M.A. and Van Hook, J. (2019), "Socioeconomic Status and Acculturation: Why Mexican Americans are Heavier than Mexican Immigrants and Whites ", Immigration and Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 19), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 71-96. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1057-629020190000019004

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019 Emerald Publishing Limited