Food insecurity and risk of poor health among US-born children of immigrants

Am J Public Health. 2009 Mar;99(3):556-62. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.144394. Epub 2008 Dec 23.


Objectives: We investigated the risk of household food insecurity and reported fair or poor health among very young children who were US citizens and whose mothers were immigrants compared with those whose mothers had been born in the United States.

Methods: Data were obtained from 19,275 mothers (7216 of whom were immigrants) who were interviewed in hospital-based settings between 1998 and 2005 as part of the Children's Sentinel Nutrition Assessment Program. We examined whether food insecurity mediated the association between immigrant status and child health in relation to length of stay in the United States.

Results: The risk of fair or poor health was higher among children of recent immigrants than among children of US-born mothers (odds ratio [OR] = 1.26; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.02, 1.55; P < .03). Immigrant households were at higher risk of food insecurity than were households with US-born mothers. Newly arrived immigrants were at the highest risk of food insecurity (OR = 2.45; 95% CI = 2.16, 2.77; P < .001). Overall, household food insecurity increased the risk of fair or poor child health (OR = 1.74; 95% CI = 1.57, 1.93; P < .001) and mediated the association between immigrant status and poor child health.

Conclusions: Children of immigrant mothers are at increased risk of fair or poor health and household food insecurity. Policy interventions addressing food insecurity in immigrant households may promote child health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States