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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A social determinants framework identifying state-level immigrant policies and their influence on health.

  • Author(s): Wallace, Steven P
  • Young, Maria-Elena De Trinidad
  • Rodríguez, Michael A
  • Brindis, Claire D
  • et al.

Background:Many conceptual frameworks that touch on immigration and health have been published over the past several years. Most discuss broad social trends or specific immigrant policies, but few address how the policy environment affects the context of settlement and incorporation. Research on the social determinants of health shows how policies across multiple sectors have an impact on health status and health services, but has not yet identified the policies most important for immigrants. Understanding the range and content of state-level policies that impact immigrant populations can focus health in all policies initiatives as well as contextualize future research on immigrant health. Methods:Our framework identifies state-level policies across five different domains that impact the health of immigrants and that vary across states, especially for those without legal status. Our scan shows that immigrants are exposed to different contexts, ranging from relatively inclusive to highly exclusive; a number of states have mixed trends that are more inclusive in some areas, but exclusive in others. Finally, we examine how the relative inclusiveness of state policies are associated with state-level demographic and political characteristics. Results:Contrary to the image that exclusive policies are a reaction to large immigrant populations that may compete for jobs and cultural space, we find that the higher the proportion of foreign born and Hispanics in the state, the more inclusive the set of policies; while the higher the proportion of Republican voters, the less inclusive. Conclusions:Variation across immigrant policies is much larger than the variation in state demographic and political characteristics, suggesting that state-level policies need to be included as a possible independent, contextual effect, when assessing immigrant health outcomes. This policy framework can be particularly useful in bridging our understanding of how large macro processes are connected to the daily lives and health of immigrants.

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