Are Immigrants Positively Selected on Genetic Predisposition to Better Health? Evidence for Cognition and Smoking From the Health and Retirement Study

Zoya Gubernskaya , University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY)
Dalton Conley, New York University (NYU)

The research offers an empirical test of the “health immigrant effect” hypothesis – the idea that better health outcomes of the foreign-born can be explained by the selective migration of healthier individuals. The paper uses genetic data (polygenic scores) from the 2006-2014 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to evaluate whether immigrants have genotypes that predispose them to better health outcomes and behavior, focusing on general cognition and smoking. The results from the t-tests and OLS regressions point to a statistically significant immigrant advantage over the U.S.-born older adults with respect to genetic predisposition to higher cognition. The results for smoking are less conclusive. The foreign-born have a sizable advantage over the native-born in the predisposition to frequency of smoking, but not to smoking initiation. Selective immigration may play a role in explaining nativity effects in health and should be considered in future modelling of the effects of immigration on health.

See paper

 Presented in Session 29. Migrant Health Selectivity