Edited by Frank Trovato
The immigrant mortality advantage is examined from the perspectives of the health selection and acculturation hypotheses. Differential mortality between immigrant and native born populations is studied across 19 causes of death encompassing chronic and external types of mortality. With few exceptions, the immigrant population showed lower death rates on virtually all causes of death. Acculturation (years in Canada since immigration) was found to have an eroding effect on the immigrant mortality advantage for most causes of death. The protective effect of health selection on survival probabilities is shown to last for 25 years or more for some causes of death, particularly ischemic heart disease among males. For diseases such as diabetes and breast cancer the health selection effect seems to be relatively short lived, lasting only between five and ten years, respectively. In females the selectivity effect on mortality risk is virtually lost by 35 years’ duration. In males, at this stage of the migration experience there is a persisting small protective effect of health selection. Taken together the findings suggest that immigrants experience health erosion the longer the period of residence in Canada, but the degree of erosion varies depending on the type of disease examined.
A number of explanations have been advanced in the migrant studies literature concerning health and mortality variations among migrant populations in western countries. Notwithstanding the explosive growth of the literature, an overarching theory currently does not seem possible. Therefore, it may be fruitful in the meantime to rely on the use of organizing frameworks suitable to a particular study setting to guide empirical investigations. A heuristic framework is proposed. The framework builds on the existing literature and can accommodate varied types of analyses.