Are immigrant enclaves healthy places to live? The Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Theresa L. Osypuk, Ana V. Diez Roux, Craig Hadley, Namratha R. Kandula

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

245 Scopus citations


The growing size and changing composition of the foreign-born population in the USA highlights the importance of examining the health consequences of living in neighborhoods with higher proportions of immigrants. Using data from the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis in four US cities, we examined whether neighborhood immigrant composition was associated with health behaviors (diet, physical activity) among Hispanic and Chinese Americans (n = 1902). Secondarily we tested whether neighborhoods with high proportions of immigrants exhibited better or worse neighborhood quality, and whether these dimensions of neighborhood quality were associated with healthy behaviors. Neighborhood immigrant composition was defined based on the Census 2000 tract percent of foreign-born from Latin-America, and separately, percent foreign-born from China. After adjustment for age, gender, income, education, neighborhood poverty, and acculturation, living in a tract with a higher proportion of immigrants was associated with lower consumption of high-fat foods among Hispanics and Chinese, but with being less physically active among Hispanics. Residents in neighborhoods with higher proportions of immigrants reported better healthy food availability, but also worse walkability, fewer recreational exercise resources, worse safety, lower social cohesion, and lower neighborhood-based civic engagement. Associations of neighborhood immigrant composition with diet persisted after adjustment for reported neighborhood characteristics, and associations with physical activity were attenuated. Respondent-reported neighborhood healthy food availability, walkability, availability of exercise facilities and civic participation remained associated with behaviors after adjusting for immigrant composition and other covariates. Results show that living in an immigrant enclave is not monolithically beneficial and may have different associations with different health behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-120
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) is conducted and supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in collaboration with MESA investigators. MESA is supported by contracts N01-HC-95159 through N01-HC-95165 and N01-HC-95169 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This work was supported in part by R01 HL071759 and P60 MD002249 (Dr Diez Roux). Funding for this analysis for Drs. Osypuk and Hadley was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar program at University of Michigan.


  • Chinese Americans
  • Health behaviors
  • Health inequalities
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Immigrants
  • Neighborhood
  • USA


Dive into the research topics of 'Are immigrant enclaves healthy places to live? The Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this