The Healthy Immigrant Effect: Patterns and Evidence from Four Countries

Steven Kennedy, Michael P. Kidd*, James Ted McDonald, Nicholas Biddle

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    352 Citations (Scopus)


    The existence of a healthy immigrant effect—where immigrants are on average healthier than the native born—is a widely cited phenomenon across a multitude of literatures including epidemiology and the social sciences. There are many competing explanations. The goals of this paper are twofold: first, to provide further evidence on the presence of the healthy immigrant effect across source and destination country using a set of consistently defined measures of health; and second, to evaluate the role of selectivity as a potential explanation for the existence of the phenomenon. Utilizing data from four major immigrant recipient countries, USA, Canada, UK, and Australia allows us to compare the health of migrants from each with the respective native born who choose not to migrate. This represents a much more appropriate counterfactual than the native born of the immigrant recipient country and yields new insights into the importance of observable selection effects. The analysis finds strong support for the healthy immigrant effect across all four destination countries and that selectivity plays an important role in the observed better health of migrants vis a vis those who stay behind in their country of origin.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)317-332
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of International Migration and Integration
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015


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