Economics at your fingertips  

Immigrant Legal Status and Health: Legal Status Disparities in Chronic Conditions and Musculoskeletal Pain Among Mexican-Born Farm Workers in the United States

Erin R. Hamilton (), Jo Mhairi Hale and Robin Savinar
Additional contact information
Erin R. Hamilton: University of California, Davis
Jo Mhairi Hale: University of St Andrews
Robin Savinar: University of California, Davis

Demography, 2019, vol. 56, issue 1, 1-24

Abstract: Abstract Immigrant legal status determines access to the rights and privileges of U.S. society. Legal status may be conceived of as a fundamental cause of health, producing a health disparity whereby unauthorized immigrants are disadvantaged relative to authorized immigrants, a perspective that is supported by research on legal status disparities in self-rated health and mental health. We conducted a systematic review of the literature on legal status disparities in physical health and examined whether a legal status disparity exists in chronic conditions and musculoskeletal pain among 17,462 Mexican-born immigrants employed as farm workers in the United States and surveyed in the National Agricultural Workers Survey between 2000 and 2015. We found that unauthorized, Mexican-born farm workers have a lower incidence of chronic conditions and lower prevalence of pain compared with authorized farm workers. Furthermore, we found a legal status gradient in health whereby naturalized U.S. citizens report the worst health, followed by legal permanent residents and unauthorized immigrants. Although inconsistent with fundamental cause theory, our results were robust to alternative specifications and consistent with a small body of existing research on legal status disparities in physical health. Although it is well known that Mexican immigrants have better-than-expected health outcomes given their social disadvantage, we suggest that an epidemiologic paradox may also apply to within-immigrant disparities by legal status. We offer several explanations for the counterintuitive result.

Keywords: Health; Immigration; Legal status; Mexico–United States; Farm workers (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: Track citations by RSS feed

Downloads: (external link) Abstract (text/html)
Access to the full text of the articles in this series is restricted.

Related works:
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.

Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text

Persistent link:

Ordering information: This journal article can be ordered from

Access Statistics for this article

Demography is currently edited by John D. Iceland, Stephen A. Matthews and Jenny Van Hook

More articles in Demography from Springer, Population Association of America (PAA)
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Sonal Shukla ().

Page updated 2019-05-21
Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:56:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s13524-018-0746-8