The Barrio Advantage

Recently I was listening to a radio program on NPR and the guest speakers were talking about the life expectancy for Mexicans and Mexican Americans throughout the United States, in comparison to other groups. They claimed that this ethnic group has a higher life expectancy than their White or African American counterparts, but only in places where the population was mostly Hispanic. The idea behind this claim is called “The Barrio Advantage”, where people living in neighborhoods with their same ethnic group produces significant advantages to one’s health. The population used in this sample were elderly immigrants  and Mexican Americans who showed lower levels of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and strokes. According to the study, the most significant factors for maintaining lower levels of mortality are related to: intact family structures, community institutions, and social kinship, which are beneficial to elderly people with deteriorating health.

Furthermore, assimilation into mainstream American culture plays a significant role in the deterioration of one’s health. As the Latino culture becomes more assimilated into mainstream society, illicit drug use, alcohol abuse, and smoking, especially amongst women, becomes higher, while diet and nutrition decreases. More assimilated Latinos eat less fruit, vegetables, fiber, and protein, and eat more fatty foods, and more assimilated Latina women showed higher rates of low birth weight, premature births, and teenage pregnancies. Also, more assimilated Latinos have higher rates of unstable mental health related to alienation, anxiety, and discrimination, which leads to higher rates of depression and suicide. As I listened to the program and researched the topic, it made complete sense, so I thought about the trajectory of a typical Mexican immigrant and used my parents as an example.

The majority of Mexican immigrants come from rural areas throughout the country and have low education levels. These homogenized rural areas have low crime levels and low drug use, and their diet is typical Mexican with a combination of all the food groups. Their main reason for immigrating is economic, thus upon arrival, their main concern is economic stability, social networks, and work. They usually maintain their same diet and incorporate mainstream fast food modestly. However, their children, now born in the United States, must learn to assimilate into mainstream society through language, diet, and activities. So as pressure groups in school become more prevalent, smoking, drinking, and illicit drug use becomes the norm, which in turn causes people to make premature mistakes with crime and sexual activity. Some of these mistakes cause us to develop high levels of stress and anxiety which is projected onto our own children, which leads to depression and other mental health concerns. And then our parents retire and return to Mexico to their small rural hometowns and go back to slow and simple living, or they stay in the barrio where they maintain their similar lifestyle because their children take them in.

So you wonder…what’s the point? Why would an immigrant want their children to be born and raised in the United States considering the staggering statistics? Well, I don’t have the answer but I’d like to hear what anyone out there thinks.




2 Responses to “The Barrio Advantage”

  1. B

    “Why would an immigrant want their children to be born and raised in the United States considering the staggering statistics?”

    Here are a few basic reasons:

    1. Apply for an American passport and travel to many countries without needing a visa
    2. We’re not restricted on the amount of time we can spend outside of our country
    3. Enter and leave the U.S. freely
    4. Become a candidate in elections and work at federal level
    5. Live and work anywhere in the U.S.
    6. One can bring in more family members to the U.S. more easily
    7. U.S. citizens are eligible for more public benefits, financial and tax benefits
    8. There is more safety, security, and opportunity than in the vast majority of other countries.
    9. Although tuition is on the rise, we are one of the leaders in Higher Education
    10. The right to vote
    11. More Freedom than other countries (I say “more freedom” because the term is really just a state of mind).
    11. U.S. citizens also have the right to an attorney and a fair trial without the threat of being deported

    Now, in consideration of the “Staggering Statistics”: It would be great if you posted a direct link to the article or referenced the source to gain some more insight into the actual stats since the post is based on a comparative analysis rather than actual statistics.

    A note to keep in mind, is that we are in an age where diagnosis is the new fad, which makes for good business. As such, we can observe increasing trends across a variety of diagnoses of mental illnesses/disorders. This encompasses not only those from the “barrio”, but society at large. It is also among the Mexican/Latino/Hispanic community where sick immigrants tend to return to their home country before death which poses inaccurate accounts of deaths among the population. Regardless of the statistics, the beauty of it all is that we have the American Advantage. Just word for thought… Great post, made me think of all the advantages I have as an American of Mexican descent.

  2. rodburns1

    Thanks for the lengthy comment. I hope that can stir some dialogue for people with this type of background. I agree with your bullet points on what this country does in the external administrative sense, I was simply engaging a thought-provoking question because I didn’t know how to finish the post and it was a conflicting idea that I had. And although we are in an era where every condition is diagnosed and medicated, you don’t have to look far to know that our generation experimented more with drugs and alcohol than our parents did. You don’t need statistics for that, you can simply ask your relatives and compare their answers with friends. My dad almost had a heart attack when he found out my siblings and I had tattoos and tried a few things on the street. I too am proud to be an American, but my job is social critique and commentary, and the best form of patriotism is through criticism and dissent. Cheers


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