Education gradients in health for Asian immigrant adults in the United States

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2015-05

Authors

Wang, Ying-Ting

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Abstract

This dissertation examined the association between education and health among Asian immigrants in the United States. Despite being the second-largest immigrant population and the largest new immigrant group in the United States since 2009, Asian immigrants in the United States have received limited, although growing, attention in the literature on immigrants' health. Asian immigrants have a weaker education gradient in health in comparison to non-Hispanic whites, and this weak gradient raises questions on the role of education for Asian immigrants and, more broadly, on Asian immigrants' health. In this dissertation, I first documented the relationship between education and adult health for Asian immigrants and examined whether the education gradient in health for Asian immigrants' is weaker than that for U.S.-born whites. Second, I studied the underlying reasons for the modest education gradient in health for Asian immigrants. Using the National Health Interview Survey, the New Immigrant Survey, and the China Health and Nutrition Survey, I found that Asian immigrants do have a weaker education gradient in health than U.S.-born whites. This weaker gradient is mostly due to the fact that Asian immigrants with high education have worse health than their U.S.- born white counterparts, while Asian immigrants with low education are healthier than their U.S.-born white counterparts. Lower economic returns to education and a positive association between education and health behaviors can account for some health disadvantages for highly educated Asian immigrants. Also, some of the health advantage of less-educated Asian immigrants may be attributed to positive health selection among Asian immigrants. This dissertation provides a much-needed understanding of Asian immigrants' health and has implications for immigration policies and public health programs.

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