Pathways between acculturation and health behaviors among residents of low-income housing: The mediating role of social and contextual factors

Jennifer Dacey Allen, Caitlin Caspi, May Yang, Bryan Leyva, Anne M. Stoddard, Sara Tamers, Reginald D. Tucker-Seeley, Glorian C. Sorensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Acculturation may influence health behaviors, yet mechanisms underlying its effect are not well understood. In this study, we describe relationships between acculturation and health behaviors among low-income housing residents, and examine whether these relationships are mediated by social and contextual factors. Residents of 20 low-income housing sites in the Boston metropolitan area completed surveys that assessed acculturative characteristics, social/contextual factors, and health behaviors. A composite acculturation scale was developed using latent class analysis, resulting in four distinct acculturative groups. Path analysis was used to examine interrelationships between acculturation, health behaviors, and social/contextual factors, specifically self-reported social ties, social support, stress, material hardship, and discrimination.Of the 828 respondents, 69% were born outside of the U.S. Less acculturated groups exhibited healthier dietary practices and were less likely to smoke than more acculturated groups. Acculturation had a direct effect on diet and smoking, but not physical activity. Acculturation also showed an indirect effect on diet through its relationship with material hardship.Our finding that material hardship mediated the relationship between acculturation and diet suggests the need to explicate the significant role of financial resources in interventions seeking to promote healthy diets among low-income immigrant groups. Future research should examine these social and contextual mediators using larger, population-based samples, preferably with longitudinal data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-36
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Cancer Institute (grant numbers R01 CA111310-01A1 ; K05 CA108663-05 ), Cooperative Agreement Number U48DP001946 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the NIH/NCI Harvard Education Program in Cancer Prevention and Control ( R25 CA057713 ), the NIH/NCI Cancer Related Health Disparities Education and Career Development Program ( R25 CA163184 ), the NIH/NCI Reducing Social Disparities in Cancer Risk ( K05 CA108663- 05 ), and an NCI K01 career development award (Grant# CA169041-01 ).The findings and conclusions in this journal article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors would like to thank the 20 low-income housing sites that participated in this research, and the assistance from the Cambridge, Somerville and Chelsea Public Housing Authorities. The authors also acknowledge the administrative and field staff at the Harvard School of Public Health and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the study participants for their contributions to this project. They also thank Gary Adamkiewicz, Marty Alvarez-Reeves, Amy Harley, Ruth Lederman, Samuel Lipson, Carol Lowenstein, Hannah L. Mills, Laura Tom, Brianna Wadler, and Lorraine Wallace for their contributions to the overall study design and implementation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Authors.


  • Acculturation
  • Health behavior
  • Immigrant
  • Public housing
  • Social context
  • United States


Dive into the research topics of 'Pathways between acculturation and health behaviors among residents of low-income housing: The mediating role of social and contextual factors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this