Abstract

Recent research suggests that the favorable mortality outcomes for the Mexican immigrant population in the United States may largely be attributable to selective out-migration among Mexican immigrants, resulting in artificially low recorded death rates for the Mexican-origin population. In this paper, we calculate detailed age-specific infant mortality rates by maternal race/ethnicity and nativity for two important reasons: (1) it is extremely unlikely that women of Mexican origin would migrate to Mexico with newborn babies, especially if the infants were only a few hours or a few days old; and (2) more than 50% of all infant deaths in the United States occur during the first week of life, when the chances of out-migration are very small. We use concatenated data from the U.S. linked birth and infant death cohort files from 1995 to 2000, which provides us with over 20 million births and more than 150,000 infant deaths to analyze. Our results clearly show that first-hour, first-day, and first-week mortality rates among infants born in the United States to Mexican immigrant women are about 10% lower than those experienced by infants of non-Hispanic, white U.S.-born women. It is extremely unlikely that such favorable rates are artificially caused by the out-migration of Mexican-origin women and infants, as we demonstrate with a simulation exercise. Further, infants born to U.S.-born Mexican American women exhibit rates of mortality that are statistically equal to those of non-Hispanic white women during the first weeks of life and fare considerably better than infants born to non-Hispanic black women, with whom they share similar socioeconomic profiles. These patterns are all consistent with the definition of the epidemiologic paradox as originally proposed by Markides and Coreil (1986).

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