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Latino kids in states with more anti-immigrant laws are in poorer health, study finds

A study in Pediatrics found that Latinos from 3 to 17 in states with more discriminatory policies have higher odds of having certain physical and mental health conditions.
A man holds his sick daughter while at a pediatric intensive care unit
A man holds his sick daughter at a pediatric intensive care unit in New Mexico near El Paso, Texas, in 2018.Paul Ratje / AFP via Getty Images file

Latino children living in states with more anti-immigrant laws and policies — and the resulting inequities in access — were linked to higher odds of chronic physical or mental health conditions, according to a study published Tuesday in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Researchers analyzed data from the National Survey of Children’s Health from 2016 to 2020. They measured 17,855 Latino children participants from 3 to 17 years old; almost 30% lived below the federal poverty level and a little over half were from an immigrant family.

The researchers ranked a state’s discrimination level by factoring policies toward immigrants, including health services, employment, immigration policy enforcement, discrimination prohibition, and access to rental housing , driver's licenses and higher education. They also included prejudicial attitudes toward immigrants and Latinos using data from the American National Election Study.

Latino children living in states with more of these policies and attitudes were found to be 1.13 times more likely to have a chronic physical health condition and 1.24 times more likely to have multiple mental health conditions.

For the study, the surveyed caregivers provided information on children’s physical and mental health issues, including allergies, asthma, blood disorders, diabetes and heart conditions, as well as depression, anxiety and behavioral and conduct issues.

“This study underscores the importance of addressing the health impacts of state laws as well as the effects of public attitudes that perpetuate racist and/or anti-immigrant sentiments, all of which influence access to opportunities and resources that promote healthy development,” the authors said in the report.

In a related commentary published in Pediatrics, Dr. Nathalia Jimenez, an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said, “At the societal level, this study provides further evidence that immigrant policy is health policy.”

A recent U.S. Census study found that a quarter of children in the U.S. are of Hispanic or Latino descent.

Notably, researchers wrote that families who were the most at-risk may not have been surveyed.