Latino Health Paradoxes: Empirical Evidence, Explanations, Future Research, and Implications
In the last decades, the growth of the U.S. Latino population and the adaptation of Latino immigrants have increasingly been the subject of scholarly and policy attention. Some see the growth of the Latino population as a positive force that will redefine U.S. society and might strengthen diversity and democracy (Suarez-Orozco & Paez, 2002). On the other hand, some argue that Hispanic immigration constitutes a threat to the Anglo-Protestant values and practices that form the core of American culture (Huntington, 2004). In health research, the topic of Latino health paradoxes (defined below) is also becoming the subject of increased debate. For some, the health advantage that Latinos appear to have might be rooted in their “cultural orientation” and strong social networks. For others, the so-called paradoxes are the result of selection processes that bring to the United States Latino immigrants that are healthier than their nonimmigrant conationals. Hence, this school argues, “paradoxes” are, after all, not paradoxical. This chapter describes the empirical evidence on Latino health paradoxes and discusses possible explanations for and implications of such paradoxes. We argue that research on Latino health should be embedded in a complex understanding of the context of Latino immigration, including the Latin American sending countries and the process of immigrant adaptation. Thus, studying Latino health should involve an interdisciplinary dialogue between sociologists of immigrant adaptation and public health researchers. Large-scale Latino immigration is relatively recent and is rapidly evolving (e.g., the emergence of secondary destinations in addition to the traditional metro area gateways, the growth of non-Mexican Latin American immigration, and the resurgence of highly contentious immigration politics and policy debates). Because of this fluidity, understanding Latino immigration and Latino health often seems elusive. Therefore, the objective of this chapter is not to provide answers but to suggest research approaches that might enrich our inquiry into Latino health. Other chapters in this volume discuss in-depth important dimensions of the Latino experience in the United States, such as the demographics of the U.S. Latino population and immigrant adaptation. Here we discuss how these factors might influence Latino health and highlight some issues that are critical for understanding observed patterns of health in this population.
KeywordsLatino Population Russell Sage Foundation Latino Immigrant Health Advantage Latin American Study
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