The Body Mass Index Assimilation of U.S. Immigrants: How Do Diet and Exercise Contribute?

54 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2013 Last revised: 27 Mar 2017

See all articles by Sukanya Basu

Sukanya Basu

Vassar College - Department of Economics

Mike Insler

United States Naval Academy - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 26, 2017

Abstract

We explore the underlying causes and implications of the previously documented unhealthy Body Mass Index (BMI) assimilation of U.S. immigrants to native levels. Diet - measured by fat, carbohydrate, protein, and caloric intake - and exercise have mixed success in explaining the BMI convergence of immigrants. Food and exercise assimilation differs by age group, with middle-aged immigrants exhibiting poor behaviors consistent with unhealthy BMI assimilation. Worse diets may contribute to BMI increases among young sub-populations: young immigrants assimilate in their intake of saturated fats, when calories are held constant. There are differences in behavior by income, as poorer immigrants exhibit greater convergence to unhealthy native eating habits. Home country conditions also influence dietary assimilation, with heterogeneity across Mexican and non-Mexican immigrants.

Keywords: Obesity, immigration, nutrition, diet, exercise

JEL Classification: I10, I12, I18, J11

Suggested Citation

Basu, Sukanya and Insler, Michael, The Body Mass Index Assimilation of U.S. Immigrants: How Do Diet and Exercise Contribute? (March 26, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2297928 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2297928

Sukanya Basu (Contact Author)

Vassar College - Department of Economics ( email )

124 Raymond Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
United States

Michael Insler

United States Naval Academy - Department of Economics ( email )

589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402
United States

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