Demographic Analysis of SES Stability & Well-being among Children of Immigrants

Balistreri, Kelly
Demographic Analysis of SES Stability & Well-being among Children of Immigrants NICHD R21

Kelly Balistreri (co-PI) and Jennifer Van Hook (co-PI, Penn State) have been studying the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES), socioeconomic instability and weight among young children of immigrants and children of natives. This topic is significant because over one in five U.S. children is the child of an immigrant, many of whom are poor and at high risk of becoming overweight or obese. Yet little is known about weight trajectories for children of immigrants, and the existing research on this topic has yielded inconsistent results, a problem we attribute partially to the reliance on small, non-representative samples. The proposed research will use nationally representative, longitudinal data—the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort—to explore weight trajectory patterns among children of immigrants. The proposed research will also help resolve some of the inconsistencies in the literature on the socioeconomic-health gradient. One of the more enduring findings in the public health and demographic literature is that higher SES is associated with better health (Finch 2003). Yet the relationship between SES and child’s weight status, a key indicator of health, varies across race and ethnic groups. By testing hypotheses derived from assimilation, social stratification and nutrition transition theories, we attempt to evaluate some macro-level explanations for race/ethnic disparities in children’s health. The research will serve as a springboard for a larger project which will examine the behavioral and social psychological mechanisms underlying the SES-gradient and will examine some of the structural changes that tend to accompany shifts in SES that could be associated with different weight trajectories.


Balistreri, K. & Van Hook, J. (2009). "Socioeconomic Status and Body Mass Index among Hispanic Children of Immigrants and Children of Natives." American Journal of Public Health. 99(12) 2238-2246.

Balistreri, K. & Van Hook, J. (2010). Trajectories of Overweight among US School Children: A focus on social and economic characteristics, Maternal and Child Health Journal   DOI: 10.1007/s10995-010-0622-7.


Balistreri, K., Baker, E. & Van Hook, J. Generation, Acculturation and Weight: Obesity among the Children of Immigrants.