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Food insecurity among immigrant populations in the United States




Norris, Caroline, author
Berning, Joshua, advisor
Cleary, Rebecca, committee member
Pena, Anita, committee member

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As households immigrate to the United States, abrupt environmental changes may impact household food security, health, and productivity. Persistent, cultural food preferences may affect a household's ability to achieve food security when removed from their country of origin, resulting in a higher incidence of food insecurity (FI) for immigrant households. Alternatively, a positive immigrant self-selection effect could result in healthy, wealthy, and highly motivated households deciding to immigrate, thus leading to a scenario where immigrant households are less likely to be food insecure than their native counterparts. Using a subsample of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement, this study compares food security levels between immigrant and non-immigrant populations in the United States across Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and African immigrant populations and across varying household compositions. To compare the food security status of particular immigrant groups with their respective native counterparts, we implement a coarsened exact matching (CEM) method to match households on various observable characteristics. Following CEM, we estimate a linear probability model for each subgroup of matched strata, with immigrant status acting as the variable of interest. Additionally, we employ an Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition method to decompose differences in FI that are explained by mean native/immigrant differences in household characteristics and the relationship of those characteristics to FI. I find that immigrant populations vary greatly in FI incidence across both country of origin and household composition, and that the drivers of differential FI also varies between groups. For immigrants from Mexico and West Africa, immigrant status is associated with a 3.53% and 7.59% decrease in the likelihood of achieving household food security respectively. Conversely, for immigrants from India and China, immigrant status increases the likelihood of achieving food security, at 5.98% and 2.51% respectively. Among Mexican immigrants, differential characteristics are the primary driver of the gap of food security, namely differences in education and occupation endowments. For Chinese and West African immigrants, however, differential returns to characteristics are the primary drivers of the gap in food security.


2020 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

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food culture
coarsened exact matching
Oaxaca Blinder decomposition
food insecurity


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