The Shape of Things to Come: Obesity Prevalence among Foreign-Born vs. U.S.-Born Hispanic Children in California
Alison M. Buttenheim, University of Pennsylvania
Anne Pebley, University of California, Los Angeles
Katie Hsih, Princeton University
Noreen Goldman, Princeton University
Until recently, patterns of obesity prevalence among Hispanic children in the US mirrored those of Hispanic adults: prevalence was highest among US-born Hispanic children, and lowest among foreign-born children. However, recent trends in Mexico suggest that this pattern may be shifting. The well-documented rapid nutrition transition in Mexico has contributed to dramatic increases in obesity prevalence among Mexican children, adolescents, and young adults. In this study, based on data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey and the California Health Interview Survey, we find support for the hypothesis that overweight/obesity prevalence is no longer lower for foreign-born compared to US-born Mexican-origin youth. In fact, higher obesity prevalence among the foreign-born was observed for boys (ages 4-10) and for young adult males (ages 18-24). The previously-observed protective effect on obesity risk among recent immigrants from Mexico is likely to erode as current child and youth cohorts age into adulthood.