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When in America, do as the Americans? Exploring the heterogeneity in immigrants unhealthy assimilation

Barbieri, Paolo Nicola (2016): When in America, do as the Americans? Exploring the heterogeneity in immigrants unhealthy assimilation.

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It is a well-established that immigrants upon their arrival in the United States are in better health condition with respect to their American counterpart and that such advantage erodes over time. In this paper we study the heterogeneity of such assimilation across different arrival cohorts and unhealthy behaviors. To do so we focus on the assimilation of: cigarette and alcohol consumption. Our theoretical predictions show that assimilation depends on social exposure and taste for consumption. Empirical results show that for binge drinking more recent immigrant cohorts arrive in the US with a higher probability of being binge drinker and experience a faster assimilation as time passes. On the contrary for smoking habits both earlier and later arrival cohorts report lower smoking rates, although such health advantage decreases with time spent in the US. These results show that there is indeed heterogeneity in the assimilation of unhealthy behaviors for American immigrants. Drinking habits assimilation start in the country of origin and continues as immigrants interacts with natives' habits; while for smoking healthier country of origin healthier habits are preserved in time, but immigrants struggle to maintain their health advantage as they interacts with natives.

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