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Essays on the effect of immigration and assimilation on immigrants’ health and health behaviours: evidence from the United Kingdom and Russian Federation

Bordea, E. (2019). Essays on the effect of immigration and assimilation on immigrants’ health and health behaviours: evidence from the United Kingdom and Russian Federation. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This thesis investigates the effects of immigration and assimilation on immigrants’ health and health behaviours in the United Kingdom and Russian Federation. By using longitudinal survey data from both countries, we test the hypotheses that whether immigrants are more willing to take risk than the native population and if this is the case whether it leads them to be more likely to engage in potentially risky health behaviours (e.g. smoking, regular alcohol drinking, eating fast food). Our results show that even though immigrants are more willing to take risks and are more likely to engage in certain health behaviours, with respect to others they have some protective factors and they never converge to the health level of natives. We show that the reason for immigration (political vs. economic) and the cultural distance determine the health assimilation process to a large extent. The first chapter explores general and domain-specific risk preferences of immigrant population in the United Kingdom (UK) and provides a comparison with the native population. We also aim to investigate how immigrants’ engagement in potentially risky health behaviours is different from native UK population and whether it can be explained by the difference in risk and/or time preferences. We exploit wave 6 of the Innovation Panel that is a part of the UK Household Longitudinal Study to answer the questions of interest. We apply interval regression model to study the effect of immigrant status on risk and time preferences. OLS and probit models are also estimated as a robustness check. We find that, despite being more risk loving, immigrants are less engaged in some potentially risky health behaviours (binge drinking and eating fast food) than native individuals and they also arrive with lower discount rate than natives have. The second chapter explores the effect of acculturation on immigrants’ health behaviours and lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity and diet. We exploit the UK Household Longitudinal Study, waves 1-7 (2009-2016). The panel nature of the data allows us to specify a correlated random effects linear probability model. We use length of stay in the UK and national identity as proxies for acculturation. We also allow for different acculturation trajectories based on the factors that are believed to affect the acculturation process, such as social support, family background, life satisfaction and mental health condition. Most importantly, we introduce a measure of cultural distance as we believe that acculturation trajectories will differ for immigrants with different cultural proximity to the UK. Our results indicate that length of stay is associated with lower rates of smoking, higher probability of consuming a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Identifying yourself as British is associated with lower rate of smoking, but lower probability of following a healthy diet and, for female immigrants, more alcohol units consumed over time. We find that immigrants, whose culture is close to the British one, do not change their behaviours almost at all over time and if they do, this change is towards less healthy lifestyle such as lower levels of physical activity and unhealthier diets. In contrast, those with distant cultures experience a considerable change in health behaviours towards healthier lifestyles. In the third chapter we explore the existence of the healthy immigrant effect (HIE) for Russian immigrants, who arrived after the collapse of the Soviet Union. These immigrants tend to be ethnically Russian and mostly arrived from former Soviet Union republics due to exogenous political reasons. This allows us to isolate the effect of immigration on immigrants’ health abstracting from often unobserved characteristics such as cultural background, health perception, language proficiency etc. We compare their health assimilation with that of economically motivated immigrants, who arrived in Russia before 1989. To answer the question of interest we exploit the panel component of the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey from 2010 to 2016. We make use of linear probability model (LPM) with correlated random effects, pooled LPM and standard random effects LPM. As a robustness check we specify the same set of probit models. We find support of HIE in the economic immigrant subsample and a partial support for the effect in the political immigrant sub-sample. In political immigrants, young age at arrival and Islamic country of origin have a protective effect because they are associated with change towards healthier lifestyle over time. The greatest deterioration in health is experienced by political immigrants, who arrived in Russia later in their life (after 30 years old).

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Economics
School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
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