Mexican Americans and Immigration

It is useful at this point to turn to a study by Vega et al. (1998), which addresses the prevalence of disorder in a Mexican American sample and relates that prevalence to immigration. This study used methods based on the CIDI, with a Spanish-language translation, to conduct a survey of Mexican Americans in Fresno County, California. They focused primarily on issues of migration, with the overall finding that rates of disorder were higher among the U.S.-born Mexican Americans than among those who had immigrated, and that rates of disorder generally were higher for immigrants who had spent more time in the United States. They generally found that the lowest rates of most disorders were for those born in Mexico who had come to the United States within 13 years of the interviews, with somewhat higher rates for those immigrants who had been in the United States for 13 years or more, and the highest rates were for Mexican Americans born in the United States. For reference, these rates are compared to a survey done in Mexico by Medina-Mora, Conver, Sepulveda, and Otero (1989) and to the NCS. The Mexican rates were most comparable to the low rates for recent immigrants, as would be expected if there were not strong selection effects for immigration or trauma associated with it. The high lifetime rates for Mexican Americans born in the United States were most comparable to the NCS sample as a whole and to the Hispanics in the NCS. It would be useful to see similar comparisons for current instead of lifetime disorder.

These findings bring us back to consideration of Odegaard, who looked at emigration from Norway. Clearly the process of immigration can have elements of selection and elements of stress, as can experiences once one is resident in the United States. In California, the reason for immigration may be largely economic, with the poor of Mexico coming to work for a better wage, only to find that their new home brings its own problems, including hard physical labor, prejudice, substance abuse, and other urban stressors. That theme would be familiar to Odegaard's Norwegians, although the circumstances are not the same.

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