Nativity, Cigarette Smoking, and the Hispanic Mortality Advantage in the United States

Andrew Fenelon, University of Pennsylvania

Recent research suggests that the mortality advantage of US Hispanics is a feature only of the foreign-born. This paper examines the contribution of smoking to the adult mortality advantages of foreign-born and US-born Hispanics relative to US-born non-Hispanic whites. National Health Interview Survey data are used to estimate the contribution of smoking for each group. The life expectancy advantage of foreign-born Hispanics is around 3 years, while that of US-born Hispanics is less than 1 year. Smoking contributes 1.8 years to the advantage of the foreign born and 0.6 years for the US-born. Smoking thus partially explains why the life expectancy advantage of foreign-born Hispanics diminishes for the US-born. The higher burden of smoking among Hispanics born in the United States likely represents a deterioration of health behaviors associated with acculturation. Greater exposure to the US context leads to the adoption of poor health behaviors common among Americans.

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Presented in Session 169: Adult Mortality II: Behaviors and Diseases