An Immigrants’ paradox in mental health? a life-course approach
Literature on immigrants’ mental health identifies a paradox. Assimilation theories would expect immigrants’ mental health to increase with tenure in the destination country, as their socioeconomic position improves. To the contrary, recent studies found that immigrants often have better mental health than natives upon arrival, but they lose this advantage with tenure. While the former is explained by positive selection, the latter has been explained through cumulative exposure to disadvantage. However, previous literature mostly relies on cross-sectional data, and the few longitudinal studies have not disentangled the effect of ageing from that of tenure. In this article, using data from waves 1-10 of Understanding Society, I use panel data analysis to estimate immigrants-natives differences in mental health trajectories. Results indicate that ageing has a stronger negative effect for natives’ mental health than for immigrants’. This leaves us with an interesting puzzle: (why) is being an immigrant protective for mental health?