Social Patterning in Body Mass Index (BMI) among Contemporary Immigrant Groups: The Emergence of a Gradient

Ilana Redstone Akresh, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Reanne Frank, Ohio State University

Although adult body mass index (BMI) displays considerable social patterning worldwide, the direction and strength of the relationship between BMI and socioeconomic status varies cross-nationally. We examine social gradients in BMI for contemporary U.S. immigrants and evaluate whether their SES-BMI gradient patterns are shaped by underlying gradients in immigrant origin countries. Data come from the New Immigrant Survey; results indicate that the inverse SES-BMI gradients observed among this population are strongest among women originating in highly developed countries. Once in the U.S., however, inverse gradient patterns are driven largely by higher weights among low SES individuals, particularly those from less developed countries. We conclude that while certain immigrants appear to be uniquely protected from weight gain, poorer individuals from less developed countries are doubly disadvantaged; this raises concerns about worsening inequalities in both diet and behavior between the rich and poor upon arrival to the U.S.

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Presented in Session 185: Social Change and Population Health