Lead researcher, with mentorship from senior scholar
Although Mexican immigrants to the United States (US) have historically held health and mortality advantages over US-born groups, evolving population dynamics in Mexico paired with shifts in Mexico-US immigration patterns and policy regimes have raised new concerns about the metabolic health of recent cohorts of Mexican immigrants. Noting this, I designed a research project using data from a large nationally-representative survey to assess and seek to explain differences in metabolic syndrome (MetS) risk by race-ethnicity, country of origin, and duration of residence in the US and to evaluate whether recent Mexican immigrants continue to exhibit a metabolic health advantage. I incorporated multiple quantitative data analysis techniques—including age-standardized prevalence rates, rate decomposition based on logistic regression, and Poisson regression to estimate prevalence rate ratios—to answer my primary research questions and reveal potential areas of policy intervention.
Compare the metabolic profiles of adult-aged US-born whites, US-born Mexican Americans, and recent and earlier Mexican immigrants to evaluate whether recent Mexican immigrants hold a metabolic health advantage.
Assess the contribution of demographic, socioeconomic, and health behavior characteristics to observed population health disparities by race-ethnicity, country of origin, and duration of residence in the US.
Using a nationally representative sample of adults aged 20-years and older (n = 10,833) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES, 1999–2016), I assessed and sought to explain differences in metabolic syndrome (MetS) risk by race-ethnicity, country of origin, and duration of residence in the US to evaluate whether recent Mexican immigrants continue to exhibit a metabolic health advantage. I decomposed the difference in MetS prevalence between US-born whites (45.5%) and recent Mexican immigrants (29.5%) to determine how demographic, socioeconomic, and health behavior characteristics contribute to the current patterning of metabolic health in effort to illuminate possible areas of intervention. My findings revealed that recent Mexican immigrants hold a metabolic health advantage over all other groups, which is accounted for by their younger age structure. Yet, further analysis revealed that recent Mexican immigrants would retain a sizable age-adjusted MetS advantage if they were to achieve parity with US-born whites on levels of education, income, and food security. To ensure that newly-arrived Mexican immigrants continue to experience historically favorable health and mortality prospects, modest policy changes could offer health-promoting protections in the form of increased economic and food security, as well as improved educational opportunities for younger immigrants.
Formulated and precisely answered a set of policy-relevant population health questions using advanced demographic and quantitative analysis techniques.
Published and disseminated the results of my work in a leading population health journal, reaching a broad audience of scholars and social policymakers.
Consider desired impact from the outset and align the research design to that end.
As my first lead-authored quantitative research paper, this project served as my first real-life lesson on the importance of carefully aligning both the research questions and methods with the intended impact from the earliest stages of project conception and design. After conducting a thorough literature review and similar studies on this topic, I knew that in order to make a strong contribution to the literature that would be positioned to guide policy solutions I needed to learn a new quantitative analysis method—decomposition. This allowed me to meaningfully quantify how the health disparity I was studying could be narrowed or widened if policy-intervenable social conditions—such as, income, food security, and education—were made equal between groups. I learned and executed the new method despite the extra time investment this required, because it was necessary to answer my research question and to make the results more relevant to policy discussions.