The immigrant paradox is a phenomenon wherein less-acculturated immigrants have more favorable health and education outcomes than U.S.-born or more highly acculturated individuals of the same ethnic group. This study aimed to better understand this phenomenon by identifying the associated family, peer group, school, and neighborhood structures and processes. Participants in the study included Asian, Latino, and European adolescents and young adults (both immigrants and non-immigrants) drawn from two national datasets: NELS and ADDHealth. The investigators examined developmental outcomes, including education outcomes (e.g., academic engagement and aspirations), health outcomes (e.g., body mass index), behavioral outcomes (e.g., internalizing and externalizing behaviors), as well as risk behaviors in adolescence (e.g., sex risk behaviors). Additionally, a number of setting-level processes were examined to determine whether contextual variables explained the first-generation advantage for these outcomes. The immigrant paradox was observed robustly for Latino and Asian adolescents across a number of outcomes including alcohol use, tobacco use, BMI, sexual risk, and delinquency. Among setting-level outcomes, peer, family, and neighborhood variables did not explain the first-generation advantage. Interestingly, for second- and third-generation immigrant youth, who are at higher risk for behavioral problems than their first-generation peers, speaking a parents’ non-English native language at home appeared to be a key factor in preventing a variety of risky behaviors including substance use, delinquency, and risky sexual behaviors. Future studies are needed to better understand why language practices predict the immigrant advantage.
This study aimed to better understand this phenomenon by identifying the associated family, peer group, school, and neighborhood structures and processes.