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Immigrants and Health in California (Public Policy Institute blog)

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CHIS Journal Article

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<a onclick="OpenPopUpPage('http:\u002f\\u002f_layouts\u002flistform.aspx?PageType=4\u0026ListId={7AAD61FA-4BCB-48C0-B0B7-87AFDC3673EF}\u0026ID=1947\u0026RootFolder=*', RefreshPage); return false;" href=";ListId={7AAD61FA-4BCB-48C0-B0B7-87AFDC3673EF}&amp;ID=1947&amp;RootFolder=*">Paulette Cha</a>

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​Summary: Immigrants generally tend to be healthier than US-born individuals, reflecting the fact that many came to the U.S. to work; this is called the “healthy immigrant effect” or the “Latino paradox,” in the case of Latinos. However, immigrants are disproportionately represented in occupations such as construction and agricultural work that have high rates of workplace injury and exposure to unhealthy heat, pesticides, or other chemicals. In some sectors, immigrants are 15% to 25% more likely to be fatally injured at work compared to U.S.-born workers.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, essential jobs — which cannot be performed remotely — have been sources of coronavirus risk for many immigrant workers and their families. In California, cooks and agricultural workers have had among the highest excess mortality rates during the pandemic. In addition, low-income immigrants often live in households that are crowded and/or multi-generational. These and other factors have led to disproportionate deaths among immigrants in California; working-aged Latino immigrants are 8 to 11 times more likely to have died of coronavirus compared to U.S.-born non-Latinos. Universal access to virus testing, treatment, and vaccination will be essential to overcoming the pandemic in California.

Only about 8% of Californians have no form of health insurance, but a disproportionate share are immigrants; they make up 27% of the state population but 48% of the uninsured population. Fewer than 4% of children are uninsured; some of these children may be in families with limited coverage options due to barriers like immigration status. Almost two-thirds of uninsured individuals (65% of adults and 63% of children) live with at least one family member who is an immigrant. Low-income immigrants without green cards — many of whom are undocumented — are less likely to have public health insurance or access to employer insurance compared to immigrants with U.S. citizenship or green cards.

The Biden administration has signaled an interest in giving undocumented immigrants opportunities to apply for temporary legal status and eventually US citizenship. These changes could make undocumented immigrants eligible for Medi-Cal or Covered California premium subsidies if they meet income limits. Coverage and legal immigration status could together open the door for immigrants and their family members to receive regular, comprehensive health care.

This article cites data from the 2019 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS).


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Journal Article: Immigrants and Health in California

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Press Release

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California Health Interview Survey (CHIS)

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