The historical evolution of migrant studies in France is outlined. Over the past three decades there has been a shift in research orientation from an early period in the 1980s, when the focus was mostly on cancer epidemiology concerning the foreign born, to a more recent period since 2000 focused largely on the social determinants of health and mortality inequalities. The French literature agrees in many respects with the literatures of other immigrant-receiving countries in the western world that younger migrants in the pre-labor force ages tend to show higher death rates whereas those in the prime labor force ages enjoy a notably low mortality risk. An interesting differential observed is the higher mortality of female migrants from the sub-Saharan Africa region. It is suggested that in this case the underlying factor for this is the unusually high rates of maternal mortality in African women, particularly those from Morocco. This raises the interesting juxtaposition that within the immigrant population – usually found to be in better health than the native born – there exists some vulnerable subgroups with unusually poor health and survival prospects. As reported by the authors, in France the ‘healthy migrant effect’ universally reported in the international literature is visible in only a subset of studies.