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Inflammation among Children: Evidence of an Immigrant Advantage?

Immigration and Health

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

ISSN: 1057-6290

Publication date: 7 January 2019


Past research on the immigrant health paradox suggests that children with immigrant parents may have a health advantage over those with US-born parents, especially if the parent is a recent immigrant. Other research emphasizes the social and economic challenges children with immigrant parents face, in part due to disadvantaged social class and racial/ethnic positions. Underlying physiological changes due to chronic stress exposures among children in immigrant families is one potential health disadvantage that may not yet be apparent in traditional health measures. To explore these biological disparities during childhood, I use national biomarker and survey data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) (N = 11,866) to evaluate parent nativity and educational status associations with low-grade inflammation, indicated by C-reactive protein (CRP), in children ages 2–15 years. I find that children with an immigrant parent, and particularly a low-educated immigrant parent, have higher CRP, net of birth, body mass index (BMI) and other factors, than children with a US-born parent with either a low or higher education. Comparing children with low-educated parents, those with a foreign-born parent have higher predicted CRP. The findings from this study provide new evidence that children living in immigrant families in the US may be facing higher levels of chronic stress exposure, as indicated by the increased risk of low-grade inflammation, than those with US-born parents. The physiological changes related to increased risk of inflammation, could set children in immigrant families on pathways toward mental and physical health problems later in the life course.



Schmeer, K.K. (2019), "Inflammation among Children: Evidence of an Immigrant Advantage?", Immigration and Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 19), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 275-295.



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