Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Immigrating to Obesity

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Immigrating to Obesity

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Immigration and the American Obesity Epidemic" by Lingxin Hao and Julie J. H. Kim, in International Migration Review, Summer 2009.

IMMIGRATION AND THE INCIDENCE of obesity in the United States both started increasing around 1965, but don't blame newcomers for the nation's bulging bellies. Without mass immigration, America's obesity crisis would be even worse.

The average immigrant is slimmer than the average native-born American and stays that way for some 10 years after coming to the United States, report Lingxin Hao, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, and Julie J. H. Kim, a Hopkins Ph.D. candidate. Part of the explanation is self-selection. Migrating from one country to another (even under good conditions) tests even the fittest, and those who take the risk tend to be in good health. And if immigrants get sick, they exhibit what sociologists call the "salmonbias effect--they head for home. Moreover, the exercise and nutrition patterns of immigrants stay in place for a few years after they emigrate, giving them an "immigrant advantage" before they embrace America's fast-food lifestyle. …

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