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Educational gradients in five Asian immigrant populations: Do country of origin, duration and generational status moderate the education-health relationship?


Education usually shows a relationship with self-rated health such that those with highest education have the best health and those with lowest education have the worst health. We examine these educational gradients among Asian immigrants and whether they differ by country of origin, duration in the United States, and generational status. Migration theories suggest that recent immigrants from poorer countries should show a weaker relationship between education and health than US-born Whites. Acculturation theory further suggests that differences in gradients across country of origin should diminish for longer-term immigrants and the US-born and that these groups should display gradients similar to US-born Whites. We use the March Current Population Survey (2000 - 2010) to examine educational gradients in self-rated health among recent immigrants (≤ 15 years duration), longer-term immigrants (> 15 years duration), and second generation US-born Asians from China (n = 4473), India (n = 4,307), the Philippines (n = 5746), South Korea (n = 2760), and Japan (n = 1265). We find weak or non-significant educational gradients among recent Asian immigrants across the five countries of origin. There is no indication that longer-term immigrants display significant differences across educational status. Only second generation Chinese and Filipinos show significant differences by educational status. Overall, Asians show an attenuated relationship between education and self-rated health compared to US-Whites that persists over duration in the US and generational status. Our findings show shortcomings in migration and acculturation theories to explain these gradient patterns. Future research could use binational data or explore psychosocial factors to identify potential suppressors of educational gradients.

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