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Downward Social Mobility and Major Depressive Episodes among Latino and Asian American Immigrants to the United States

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionNicklett, Emily, and Sarah Burgard. 2009. "Downward Social Mobility and Major Depressive Episodes among Latino and Asian American Immigrants to the United States." PSC Research Report No. 09-668. January 2009.

Objectives: We analyzed the association between downward social mobility that occurs as a result of immigration to the United States and the odds of major depressive episodes.

Methods: Using NLAAS data, we examined downward mobility by comparing immigrants’ subjective social status (SSS) in their country of origin with reported SSS in the U.S. The dependent variable was a past-year major depressive episode using DSM-IV criteria. Logistic regression models controlled for a variety of sociodemographic and immigration-related characteristics.

Results: The analyses suggest that downward mobility in SSS is associated with increased risk of depressive episodes. The association is driven by individuals for whom employment was a very important reason for immigrating. Other factors independently associated with greater odds of depression included: Latino origin, female sex, longer residence in the U.S., and U.S. citizenship status.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that immigrants who experience downward social mobility are at elevated risk of major depressive episodes. Policies or interventions focused only on immigrants of low social status may miss another group at risk: those who experience downward mobility from higher origin statuses.

Country of focus: United States.

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