Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

HERO Online Working Paper Series,
University of Oslo, Health Economics Research Programme

No 2010:3: Immigrants`s acculturation and chanes in body mass index

Tor Iversen (), Albert Ma () and Haakon E. Meyer ()
Additional contact information
Tor Iversen: Institute of Health Management and Health Economics, Postal: HERO / Institute of Health Management and Health Economics, P.O. Box 1089 Blindern, NO-0317 Oslo, Norway
Albert Ma: Department of Economics, Boston University, Postal: and Department of Economics, University of Oslo, Norway
Haakon E. Meyer: Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Postal: Department of Community Medicine and General Practice, University of Oslo, and, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, , Oslo, Norway

Abstract: We study Body Mass Index (BMI) changes among immigrants from Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Vietnam relative to native Norwegians in Oslo. We test a symmetric convergence hypothesis: irrespective of whether an immigrant’s initial BMI is lower or higher than a native Norwegian, acculturation should make the difference in BMI between an immigrant and a native smaller. Convergence is driven by acculturation, which is measured by immigrants’ language skills. Our data come from two surveys in Oslo 2000-2002. Weights and heights were measured at the surveys; participants were asked to recall weights when they were 25 years old. Norwegian language skills and various socio-economic data were collected. We use multivariate regression analysis. Our findings broadly support the symmetric convergence hypothesis. Proficiency in the Norwegian language tends to make immigrants’ BMI, particularly among females, more equal to native Norwegians. Immigrants’ time of residency has been found to have no impact on changes in BMI.

Keywords: Obesity; Body Mass Index (BMI); immigrants; acculturation; Norway

JEL-codes: I12; I18

19 pages, June 22, 2010

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