(Un)Healthy Immigrant Citizens: Naturalization and Activity Limitations in Older Age

Zoya Gubernskaya, Frank D. Bean, Jennifer Van Hook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


This research argues that immigrants' political, social, and economic incorporation experiences, which are embedded in individual life course trajectories and heavily influenced by governmental policies, play an important role in producing diverse health outcomes among older U.S. foreign-born persons. Using data from the 2008-2010 American Community Survey and 1998-2010 Integrated Health Interview Series, we demonstrate how naturalization, a key indicator of social and political inclusion, is related to functional health in midlife and older age. Consistent with the theoretical framework, we find that among those foreign-born who immigrated as children and young adults, naturalized citizens show better health at older ages compared with noncitizens, although this relationship is partly mediated by education. But among those older foreign-born who immigrated at middle and older ages, naturalized citizens report worse health compared with noncitizens. Moreover, this negative health selection into naturalization becomes stronger for those naturalizing after the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-443
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of health and social behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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