Migration and infant death: Assimilation or selective migrations among Puerto Ricans?

Nancy Susan Landale, Ralph Salvador Oropesa, B. K. Gorman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


Using pooled origin/destination data from the Puerto Rican Maternal and Infant Health Study, we examine the implications for infant mortality of migration from Puerto Rico to the United States. An analysis restricted to the U.S. mainland shows that children of migrants have lower risks of infant mortality than do children of mainland-born Puerto Rican women. A critical question is whether this pattern indicates that maternal exposure to U. S. culture undermines infant health or whether it is largely a result of the selective migration of healthier or more advantaged mothers to the United States. Our findings show that mother's duration of U.S. residence is positively related to infant mortality among the children of migrants, suggesting that a process of negative assimilation is occurring. However, inclusion of Puerto Rico in the analysis demonstrates the importance of selective migration in explaining the U.S. mainland pattern: Infant mortality is substantially lower among recent migrants to the mainland than it is among nonmigrant women in Puerto Rico. The roles of socioeconomic status, culture orientation, health habits and health care utilization in accounting for differences in infants' survival chances by maternal migration status are assessed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)888-909
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican sociological review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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