Another Mexican birthweight paradox? The role of residential enclaves and neighborhood poverty in the birthweight of Mexican-origin infants

Theresa L. Osypuk, Lisa M. Bates, Dolores Acevedo-Garcia

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101 Scopus citations


Examining whether contextual factors influence the birth outcomes of Mexican-origin infants in the US may contribute to assessing rival explanations for the so-called Mexican health paradox. We examined whether birthweight among infants born to Mexican-origin women in the US was associated with Mexican residential enclaves and exposure to neighborhood poverty, and whether these associations were modified by nativity (i.e. mother's place of birth). We calculated metropolitan indices of neighborhood exposure to Mexican-origin population and poverty for the Mexican-origin population, and merged with individual-level, year 2000 natality data (n = 490,332). We distinguished between neighborhood exposure to US-born Mexican-origin population (i.e. ethnic enclaves) and neighborhood exposure to foreign-born (i.e. Mexico-born) Mexican-origin population (i.e. immigrant enclaves). We used 2-level hierarchical linear regression models adjusting for individual, metropolitan, and regional covariates and stratified by nativity. We found that living in metropolitan areas with high residential segregation of US-born Mexican-origin residents (i.e. high prevalence of ethnic enclaves) was associated with lower birthweight for infants of US-born Mexican-origin mothers before and after covariate adjustment. When simultaneously adjusting for exposure to ethnic and immigrant enclaves, the latter became positively associated with birthweight and the negative effect of the former increased, among US-born mothers. We found no contextual birthweight associations for mothers born in Mexico in adjusted models. Our findings highlight a differential effect of context by nativity, and the potential health effects of ethnic enclaves, which are possibly a marker of downward assimilation, among US-born Mexican-origin women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)550-560
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars programs at University of Michigan (Dr. Osypuk) and Columbia University (Dr. Bates). This article was also supported by NIH grants R01HD058510 and L60MD001969 (Dr. Osypuk), and by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Dr. Osypuk and Dr. Acevedo-Garcia). The authors are founding members of the Crossnational Initiative on Place, Migration and Health (CIPMH). They thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Center for the Advancement of Health, and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University for support for CIPMH. An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the 2007 Population Association of America annual meeting in New York, NY.


  • Birthweight
  • Ethnic enclaves
  • Immigrant
  • Immigration
  • Mexican
  • Neighborhood residential segregation
  • Poverty
  • USA


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