Media Briefings

POSITIVE EFFECTS OF IMMIGRATION ON NATIVES’ HEALTH: Evidence from Germany

  • Published Date: April 2014

Immigrants typically arrive at their destination countries healthier than natives, but their health advantage erodes over time due to entering more strenuous occupations. What’s more, the supply of low-skilled and healthy workers leads natives to shift towards less physically demanding jobs, which has positive effects on their health.

These are among the findings of research by Osea Giuntella and Fabrizio Mazzonna, presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2014 annual conference. Analysing German data for the period 1996-2010, they find that:

· On arrival, immigrants are typically young and relatively healthy, and, therefore, less likely to use healthcare than natives.

· Immigration reduces the likelihood of the native population reporting doctor-assessed disability. More specifically, a 1% increase in male immigration reduces by 10% the risk of disability among natives.

· Health deterioration is significantly larger among immigrants working in blue-collar jobs, with their health converging to the level of natives in less than 10 years.

· The reallocation of tasks within similar jobs explains part of the positive effect of immigration on health.

The authors comment:

‘Our results suggest that policy-makers should not neglect the positive effects of immigration on health outcomes.

‘At the same time, since newly and healthy immigrants might not be fully aware of the health risks associated with particular working conditions, granting information and access to care to those immigrants at higher risk could contain the process of unhealthy assimilation and the associated costs for the healthcare system.’

More…

In public debate, immigrants are often blamed for increased healthcare costs and taxpayer burden. But empirical evidence shows that immigrants are typically young and relatively healthy, and, therefore, less likely to use healthcare than natives. Indeed, several studies show that immigrants are healthier than natives on arrival, but they lose their initial advantage over time. This study argues that one of the mechanisms underlying this health convergence is the self-selection of immigrants into more strenuous occupations.

Immigrants come healthy and as they have lower human capital and less financial endowments than natives, they have incentives to trade off health for higher lifetime earnings, accepting worse working conditions for higher wages. Using German data from 1996 to 2010, this study shows that the health deterioration of immigrants is larger among immigrants working in more physically demanding jobs.

Immigrants arrive healthier, but their health advantage erodes over time. In particular the health deterioration is significantly larger among immigrants working in blue-collar jobs, with their health converging to the level of natives in less than 10 years.

As immigrants self-select into these strenuous jobs, the researchers test whether immigration, by increasing the supply of low-skilled and healthy workers leads natives to shift towards less physical demanding jobs with positive spillovers on their health.

They find evidence that immigration reduces the likelihood of the resident population reporting doctor-assessed disability. More specifically, a 1% increase in male immigration reduces by 10% the risk of disability (compared to the mean value).

As expected, the reallocation of tasks within similar jobs explains part of the positive effect of immigration on health. The researchers argue that differences in the initial endowments and composition of capital can explain the reallocation of tasks in the population and the positive effects of immigration on health.

These results suggest that policy-makers should not neglect the positive effects of immigration on health outcomes. At the same time, as newly and healthy immigrants might not be fully aware of the health risks associated with particular working conditions, granting information and access to care to those immigrants at higher risk could contain the process of unhealthy assimilation and the associated costs for the healthcare system. But further research is needed to understand fully the mechanisms behind the finding of a positive effect of immigration on natives’ health.

ENDS

Notes for editors:

‘The Positive Effect of Immigration on Natives’ Health: Immigration, Working Conditions and Health’ by Osea Giuntella and Fabrizio Mazzonna

For further information, contact:

Romesh Vaitilingam: romesh@vaitilingam.com, +44 7768 661095