Education levels in Asian American neighborhoods affect residents' health

November 8, 2012

Higher neighborhood education is associated with better self-rated health among Asian Americans who live in Asian ethnic neighborhoods, but this correlation between individual health and neighborhood education levels does not exist for Asian Americans living in non-Asian neighborhoods, according to a recent study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

"When Asian Americans live in neighborhoods that are not Asian ethnic neighborhoods, the of the neighborhood doesn't affect their health," says Emily Walton, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Dartmouth College, whose study considered 1,962 Asian Americans living in 256 neighborhoods in large across the United States. The data set for her research was taken from the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS, 2003-04).

"Why would we think that education matters in a neighborhood?" she asks. "Research suggests that when a population is highly educated they may advocate for certain neighborhood resources or institutions; that the of education in the neighborhood lifts everyone, even those individuals who may not have high themselves. In the context of an Asian ethnic neighborhood, these institutions and resources accompanying higher levels of education may be culturally and socially oriented toward the group, and thus more effective in supporting health."

Walton also found that while Asian Americans experience less discrimination when living in Asian neighborhoods, levels of are not different from those of non-Asian neighborhoods. "This goes against , which often explains among residents of ethnic enclaves as a result of the social support and connection they feel with members of their same ," says Walton, who joined the sociology faculty in July 2012.

Walton's findings are at odds with the historic perception of ethnic neighborhoods as temporary immigrant enclaves that immigrant residents leave for more integrated neighborhoods once they are financially able to do so.

"This image of ethnic neighborhoods is being dispelled by the residential patterns of contemporary Asian Americans," Walton says, "as many, even those with a high socioeconomic status, choose to settle and then remain in predominantly Asian American neighborhoods."

Sociologists refer to this as "resurgent ethnicity," "where living in an ethnic neighborhood is more of a choice, rather than an economic or social constraint," Walton explains. "Rather than thinking about ethnic neighborhoods as sites of disadvantage, we can think about the assets in ethnic neighborhoods and how living among others of similar ethnicity might actually be beneficial."

As the racial and ethnic makeup of the U.S. continues to diversify, Walton's findings add new complexity to the literature on segregation and ethnic neighborhoods. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately 14.7 million people (5 percent of all Americans) identified their race as "Asian alone," and this number is growing as Asians continue to immigrate to the U.S. in large numbers.

"Scholarship has tended to focus on levels and rates of integration and assimilation among current immigrants and the next generation, and that has been their measure of successful incorporation," Walton says. "But we might do better to re-think that model, and instead say that living in an ethnic neighborhood in the second generation and beyond could actually be beneficial."

Explore further: Ethnic disparities in breast cancer survival remain despite socioeconomic similarities

Related Stories

Ethnic disparities in breast cancer survival remain despite socioeconomic similarities

October 30, 2012
Disparities in survival after breast cancer persisted across racial/ethnic groups even after researchers adjusted for multiple demographics, such as patients' education and the socioeconomic status of the neighborhood in ...

Recommended for you

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

Study shows cigarette makers shifted stance on nicotine patches, gum

August 17, 2017
The use of nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers or nasal sprays—together called "nicotine replacement therapy," or NRT—came into play in 1984 as prescription medicine, which when combined with counseling, helped ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.