Health Assimilation of Second Generation Migrants: The Role of Parental Material and Social Resources

Mikko Myrskylä, London School of Economics and Political Science
Pekka Martikainen, Centre for Health Equity Studies
Heta Moustgaard, University of Helsinki
Silvia Loi, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Joonas Pitkänen, University of Helsinki

We aim at assessing the role of parental material and social resources in the health assimilation process across different generations of immigrant children. Health conditions of children of immigrants are widely recognized as an important dimension of successful integration. As such, the topic is of particular importance in Europe, a context of increasing in-migration flows. We draw on theoretical perspectives from the immigrant health assimilation research. We use high quality register data from Finland, free of reporting bias and loss to follow-up to study health assimilation on three different health outcomes: somatic conditions, psychopathological disorders and injuries in the period 1970-2012. Preliminary descriptive findings support our expectations: children of immigrants are undergoing a process of negative health assimilation, for all the considered health outcomes. The pattern is more pronounced for somatic and psychopathological disorders. Specific to psychopathological disorders, we observe that children living in exogamous families (one native and one migrant parent) have significantly higher prevalence of psychopathological disorders compared to other generations and to the native population. Our findings hold after stratifying for parental income and maternal age at birth. Further multivariate analyses will aim at disentangling the causes of these processes in more detail. We expect that further multivariate analyses will show that parental background, both as material and social resources will partly account for the observed differentials: drawing on previous results on health assimilation of children of migrants we expect that migrant children from disadvantaged families experience a faster negative health assimilation. Furthermore, we aim at analyzing the interaction effects of parental background and immigrant generation, as well as parental background and children’s own characteristics in early adulthood.

Introduction Dueto the selective nature of migration, health is generally better for the firstgeneration, and worse for the second and higher ones (Hamilton et al. 2011). As a result of thisnegative assimilation process, children of immigrants may show different health profiles according totheir generation and compared to their native counterparts. Specificto children of migrants, both individual and parental characteristics are knownto affect health outcomes. Migrant generation, age at migration and length ofstay in the host country are known as predictors of migrant health. Specific tochildren of migrants, demographic characteristics, socio-cultural backgroundand material resources of the family also play a crucial role (McLoyd 1998). Parentalplace of birth is of great importance: being born to native or migrant parents,or to parents with different origins (exogamous marriage/family), can play arole in influencing children''s health outcomes.Intermarriagebetween individuals of different origins is widely recognized as an indicatorof inclusion and integration of migrants. Living in exogamous families helpsthe process of integration of children of migrants by reducing prejudice andencouraging social exchange between the groups (Kalmjin 2010). Some authors,however, suggest that children living in “mixed families” may experienceproblems of self-identification in one or the other group due to disapprovaland social pressure from the members of both (Bratter et al. 2006). AimsTaking Finland as a case study, weaim at shedding light on the role played by parental demographiccharacteristics and material and social resources and on their potentialinteraction effects with migrant generation. The information contained in thedataset allows us to treat children in exogamous families as a specificsub-group, and to evaluate the role of exogamous families in the process of offspringhealth assimilation. One of the advantages of these data is that they do notsuffer from non-response, reporting biases or loss to follow-up. Instrumentsand methodsWeuse different Finnish register data files. The EKSY-Children Data File includesa 20% random sample of households with at least one child aged 0–14 at the endof 2000. The data contains individual-level information on all householdmembers (n=415,000), supplemented with a 20% random sample of 0–14-year-oldsnot living in private households (n=1,600), and all non-resident biological andadoptive parents of all 0–14-year-olds in the two samples (n=28,000). Theavailable information includes immigrant background of the children, parentalbackground (country of birth), used to define the immigrant generation, asopposed to natives (n=171,175). We differentiate 2nd generation immigrants(n=2,023), 1st generation immigrants (n=2,400) and 2.5 generation immigrants(children of one Finnish born parent and one foreign born parent, n=9,956). Thedata-linkages, covering years 1970–2012  include health record data which areused to assess health outcomes. The outcomes consist of inpatient andoutpatient health care records and they are classified according to the ICD-10classification as “Somatic conditions”, “Psychopathological disorders”,“Injuries” and “Any disorder”. These health conditionsare measured for migrant as well as native born children in the period 1970–2012. Preliminaryresults Ourpreliminary descriptive findings support our expectations. Children ofimmigrants are undergoing a process of negative health assimilation, for all theconsidered health outcomes (Table 1). Specific to psychopathological disorders,we observe that children living in exogamous families (generation 2.5) havesignificantly higher prevalence of psychopathological disorders compared toother generations and the native population. These results hold whenstratifying for household income (Table 2) and for mother’s age at time ofchildbirth.  Thedata also include a wide range of reliably measured parental characteristics:parental income, labor market participation and family structure. We expectfurther multivariate analyses to show that parental material and socialresources will partly account for the observed differentials: drawing onprevious literature (Hamilton et al. 2011) we expect migrant children from disadvantagedfamilies to experience a faster negative health assimilation. Furthermore, weaim at analyzing the interaction effects of parental background and immigrantgeneration, as well as parental background and children’s own characteristicsin early adulthood. 


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Presented in Session 1122: International Migration and Migrant Populations