Immigration and Generational Trends in Body Mass Index and Obesity in the United States

This study examined patterns of body mass index (BMI) and obesity among a nationally representative sample of first-, second- and third-generation Latinos and Asian Americans to reveal associations with nativity or country of origin. The authors used data from the National Latino and Asian American Survey (2002–2003) to generate nationally representative estimates of mean BMI and obesity prevalence and explored changes in the distribution of BMI by generational status. Analyses tested the association between generational status and BMI and examined whether this association varied by ethnicity, education, or gender.

The authors found substantial heterogeneity in BMI and obesity by country of origin and an increase in BMI in later generations among most subgroups. The data suggest different patterns for Latinos and Asian Americans in the nature and degree of distributional changes in BMI with generational status in the United States. They conclude that generational status is associated with increased BMI and obesity among Latinos and Asian Americans. Aggregate estimates not accounting for nativity and country of origin may mask significant heterogeneity in the prevalence of obesity and patterns of distributional change, with implications for prevention strategies.