Assimilation and Its Discontents: The Case of Low Birth-Weight in Los Angeles

Brian K. Finch, RAND

We adapt the segmented assimilation theory to a model of population health, which posits that assimilation is actually harmful to migrants' health. We also extend models of independent individual- and contextual- factors to more directly test the theory of segmented assimilation--a theory that relies heavily upon interactions between individual and residential circumstances. Using year 2000 vital statistics data (140,472 birth certificates) merged with 2000 US census data from Los Angeles County, we model the probability of being born low birth-weight among the native- and foreign- born. Results confirm a migrant advantage at the individual level and protective effects of immigrant enclaves at the neighborhood (census tract) level. On the other hand, although living in disadvantaged neighborhoods is generally deleterious, this relationship is less severe among immigrants, less educated labor-migrants in particular. In addition, while residence in an enclave (less acculturated neighborhood) is universally salutary, highly acculturated neighborhoods are most harmful to professional migrants.

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Presented in Session 151: Community and Contextual Effects on Health and Mortality II