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Published: November, 2005; Vol 2, Num 6

Challenging Stereotypes of Immigrant Workers

Everyone knows that Hispanic workers are increasingly prevalent on most U.S. and Canadian construction sites.

It’s no secret that native workers have ambivalent feelings about this trend which, nevertheless, seems irreversible. One obstacle to the full embrace of immigrant workers is the common perception that, for immigrants, coming north is entirely positive, that they reap huge benefits in the U.S. and Canada at no sacrifice for themselves.

However, at least on the health front, according to a new study reported in the Washington Post (October 13, 2005), Mexican immigrants suffer significantly when they come to the States.

The study found that most Mexican immigrants arrive in the U.S. in better health than the white, native population, but their health deteriorates the longer they stay. The report cited a lack of health insurance and a change in lifestyle as possible causes.

“It is unknown…if worsening health status is a result of years of difficult labor and poverty (in the U.S.), changing health behaviors like diet and smoking or insufficient preventive medical care,” the report stated.

Debunking the widespread belief that immigrants place a heavy burden on hospital emergency rooms, the report said that only ten percent of recent Mexican immigrants use emergency rooms, compared to 20 percent of U.S.-born whites.

Investigators found that 6.8 percent of recent adult Mexican immigrants rated their own health status as poor or fair and only 2.6 percent said they had diabetes. After 15 years in the U.S., 15 percent said their status is poor or fair, and 7.7 percent have diabetes.

The study was conducted by the University of California and the Mexican government’s National Population Council.

[Steve Clark]