NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 15, 2004

Despite all the disadvantages immigrant children must overcome, they often are in better health than their native-born U.S. peers, says new report from Princeton University and the Brookings Institution.

Children born to immigrant mothers have fewer incidents of low birth weight and lower infant mortality rates than children born to native-born mothers. They also have lower rates of asthma and obesity, according to the report. However, the report found that these relative strengths can dissipate by the time children of immigrants become teenagers.

The researchers found:

  • Five percent reported asthma in the first generation, 8 percent in the second and 12 to 16 percent in the third, depending on ethnicity.
  • Obesity jumped from 17 percent for foreign-born teenagers to 27 percent of those born in America.
  • Among first-generation immigrant teenagers, 8 percent report using three or more controlled substances. That figure rises to 17 percent in the second generation and to a quarter of native-born white adolescents with native-born parents.

Yet, while there may be some health benefits for these foreign-born children, there are other risks associated with the lack of English-speaking parents.

Nationally, children in immigrant homes are less likely than those in native families to have health insurance (75.6 percent versus 88 percent), more likely to be left behind a grade or more in school (10 percent versus 8 percent at age 16), and less likely to graduate from high school (72 percent versus 79 percent by age 19), noted the researchers.


Browse more articles on Health Issues