Does Immigration Help or Harm Children’s Health? The Mayan Case



Objective. We explore how the health, as measured by physical growth, of children in Guatemalan Maya families is impacted by immigration to the United States. Methods. We analyze anthropometric data on Maya children in Guatemala and in the United States. In addition, we use survey data from the Maya–American children and their parents about lifestyle and SES to examine the factors associated with overweight and obesity. Results. The Maya–American children are on average 10 centimeters taller, indicating better health. However, nearly half the Maya–American children are overweight and 42 percent are obese. Children who report watching TV or playing computer games as one of their favorite leisure time activities face a higher chance of being overweight. Conclusion. Immigration from Guatemala to the United States improves the health of children in that they generally grow taller. However, immigration also raises the risk of weight problems, increasing the likelihood of health problems such as hypertension and diabetes.