This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Americanization is Bad for Your Health

Many years ago, Rubén Rumbaut and I published a paper (actually a chapter in a book) titled "Children of Immigrants: Is Americanization Hazardous to Infant Health?" The answer to the question was, of course, yes. Children born to immigrant mothers were apt to be more healthy than those born to mothers who had grown up in the US., but the second generation mothers--those born in the US--lost that protective coating, and wound up at a disadvantage. Our research focused on infants, but Rubén has continued to research the trajectories of migrants, especially from Latin America, and the conclusion is clearly applicable not just to infants, but to some adults, as well. This point was made yesterday in a story published online by The Chronicle of Social Change.
In the United States of America, immigrant Latino families are being torn asunder, and research shows that the strengths they bring to this country are quickly lost to powerful and often damaging acculturation.
“Despite cross generational gains in economic integration, there are negative consequences to integration,” University of Illinois at Chicago researcher Alan Dettlaff wrote in a 2009 study on the subject. “Drug abuse, bad parenting skills, recent history of arrest and high family stress, all those things are more likely in U.S.-born Latino families than foreign born families.”
In 2010 the number of Latinos in the U.S. exceed 52 million, or 17 percent of the total population. Nearly one quarter of the 74 million children in America were of Latino decent. One in two babies born in America today is Latino.
“The increase of Latino children in the child welfare system is likely due in part to a growing population of third generation Latino children, who are at greater risk of child welfare involvement than their first and second generation counterparts,” Dettlaff says. The longer your family lives in the United States: the more your children are exposed to child maltreatment.
Keep in mind, however, that Latinos represent an increasingly diverse group, so we do need to be careful about the generalizations that we make. Some groups may be more susceptible to the downside of Americanization than others.
But understanding why this is happening requires a deeper look at how “Latinos” are categorized. Ruben Rumbaut, a Professor of Sociology at the University of California Irvine, who has devoted much of his career to studying Latino population growth in the United States, says that this is an issue that will require much more than research based on amorphous groupings by ethnicity of race.
Unfortunately, it seems as though we are going to be hearing a lot more about these issues as time goes by.

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