Global Nutrition Patterns and Overweight among Young Children of U.S. Immigrants: Why Nutrition Assimilation Pathways Vary across Groups

Jennifer Van Hook, Bowling Green State University
Kelly Balistreri, Bowling Green State University

Empirical efforts to assess the relationship between exposure to U.S. society and overweight among children have been hampered by a tendency to treat acculturation as a linear process. Global nutrition patterns and new formulations of assimilation theory suggest that variation in immigrants’ national origins and socioeconomic statuses are likely to generate variations in generational patterns in the prevalence of overweight. We analyze generational patterns in overweight among Hispanic, Asian, and non-Hispanic white children ages five and six using the Kindergarten cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey (N = 11,719). We find that the relationship between socioeconomic status and BMI reverses from positive to negative across immigrant generations. For children of newcomers, the relationship is positive for those from poor countries but negative for those from wealthier countries. National origin differences diminish among children of settled immigrants, and the relationship between SES and overweight becomes negative among children of natives.

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Presented in Session 55: Immigration and Child Development