A "healthy immigrant effect" or a "sick immigrant effect"? Selection and policies matter

Constant, Amelie F.; Garcia-Munoz, Teresa; Neuman, Shoshana; Neuman, Tzahi

VL / 19 - BP / 103 - EP / 121
Previous literature on a variety of countries has documented a "healthy immigrant effect" (HIE). Accordingly, immigrants arriving in the host country are, on average, healthier than comparable natives. However, their health status dissipates with additional years in the country. HIE is explained through the positive self-selection of healthy immigrants as well as the positive selection, screening and discrimination applied by host countries. In this article we study the health trajectories of immigrants within the context of selection and migration policies. Using SHARE data we examine the HIE, comparing Israel and 16 European countries that have fundamentally different migration policies. Israel has virtually unrestricted open gates for Jewish people around the world, who in turn have ideological rather than economic considerations to move. European countries have selective policies with regards to the health, education and wealth of migrants, who also self-select themselves. Our results provide evidence that (1) immigrants who move to Israel have compromised health and are significantly less healthy than comparable natives. Their health disadvantage persists for up to 20 years of living in Israel, after which they become similar to natives; (2) immigrants who move to Europe have significantly better health than comparable natives. Their health advantage remains positive for many years. Even though during some time lapses they are not significantly different from natives, their health status never becomes worse than that of natives. Our results are important for migration policy and relevant for domestic health policy.

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