The (un)healthy migrant effect. The role of legal status and naturalization timing

TitleThe (un)healthy migrant effect. The role of legal status and naturalization timing
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsPotarca, G, Bernardi, L
EditorTillman, R, Voorpostel, M, Farago, P
Book TitleSocial Dynamics in Swiss Society
Series TitleLife Course Research and Social Policies
Place PublishedCham, Switzerland
ISBN Number978-3-319-89556-7 978-3-319-89557-4

The current evidence on immigrant health in Europe is mixed, with some studies indicating a healthy migrant effect, and others pointing out that immigrants experience worse health outcomes compared to natives. Very few studies however have investigated the potential existence of a migrant health paradox in Switzerland, a country with one of the highest shares of both foreign- and native-born immigrants in Europe, as well as a restrictive and increasingly negative immigration context. Research is also yet to assess the role played by legal status, particularly the acquisition of Swiss citizenship and the life course stage at which it occurs, in moderating the health gradient between natives and immigrants. In this chapter, we use data from the Swiss Household Panel (1999–2014) and a sample of 10,010 respondents between 18 and 60 years old at the time of entry into the panel, to perform multilevel logistic models of self-rated health. Results do not show a migrant health paradox. Migrants display worse health than natives, even after adjusting for differences in socio-economic status. Furthermore, legal status has a significant influence on the health disparities between Swiss natives and immigrants. Whereas immigrants that hold Swiss nationality since birth or those who were naturalized early in life are not significantly different in health compared to natives, immigrants who are not naturalized or were naturalised later in life display worse health than natives.