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Hispanic women who identify as White are healthier than those who don’t

March 10, 2016

Hispanic women who identify as Black or another race have worse functional health than their counterparts who identify as White, according to new research. Out today, this research is part of a new special issue of Research on Aging (ROA, a journal from SAGE Publishing) focused on aging and health among Hispanic populations in the United States and in Latin America.

Looking at data from 42,908 U.S. Hispanic women, ages 18-85, from 1997 to 2011, Chinn and Hummer examined the relationship between race and certain functional limitations related to the body — inabilities or difficulties in performing daily activities such as bending or kneeling, walking a quarter mile, grasping objects, etc. The researchers found that:

  • Among those born in the U.S., Hispanic women who identify as Black have a 31% higher rate of functional limitations than those who identify as White while those who identify as other races have a 22% higher rate of functional limitations.
  • Among the women born outside of the U.S., Hispanic women who identify as White have a 1.5 % lower rate of functional limitations relative to other race Hispanic women and a 2.6% lower rate of functional limitations relative to Hispanic women who identify as Black Hispanic, despite different geographic or socioeconomic conditions.  
  • Over 25% of the U.S.-born Hispanic women who identify as Black reported living below the poverty line while about 16% of U.S.-born Hispanic women who identify as White or other races reported living in poverty.
  • U.S.-born Hispanic women living below the poverty level had a 74% higher rate of functional limitations compared to Hispanic women not living in poverty.

Chinn and Hummer continued, “Racial identity—or at least the distinction between identifying as Black or White—may have particular salience for the health of Hispanic adults among the second and higher generations.  One strong possibility for this is that U.S.-born Black Hispanics simply have greater exposure to the harsh reality of being Black in American society than foreign-born Black Hispanics.”

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The article, “Racial Disparities in Functional Limitations Among Hispanic Women in the United States” by Juanita J. Chinn and Robert A. Hummer, published in Research on Aging, is free to access for a limited time and can be read here.

This article is a part of the April 2016 special issue of Research on Aging, guest edited by Rebeca Wong, Jacqueline L. Angel and Fernando Riosmena. The special issue is focused on the social and economic demography of aging and health among Hispanic populations in the United States and in Latin America.

The authors of the articles in the special issue found the following:

  • The future of the Hispanic Health Paradox (HHP) — the pattern in which U.S. Hispanics survive longer than expected given their relatively low socioeconomic standing— may be weakened by the rising prevalence of diabetes and the obesity ‘epidemic’ affecting Hispanics in the U.S. and Latin America. (Noreen Goldman)
  • In Brazil, the rise of life expectancy over the last half century was closely associated with a dramatic rise in education across generations, though future survival gains are speculated to be lower than in the past. (Turra et al.)
  • Among older Mexicans, lower educational attainment was associated with higher odds of onset of disability in old age, regardless of when they were born and regardless and sex. (Saenz and Wong)
  • Mexican parents whose children all completed high school are less likely to report any functional limitations compared to parents with no children who completed high school. (Yahirun et al.)
  • When older Mexican migrants return to Mexico from the United States, the returnees — especially those with long stays in the United States — live in households with fewer roommates and thus potentially have weaker family and care networks than nonmigrants. (Mudrazija et al.)
  • Social support was associated with lower mortality risk among older Mexican American men. (Hill et al.)

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The special issue, Aging in the Americas: The Health and Social Implications of Migration, includes the following seven articles:


Noreen Goldman

“Will the Latino Mortality Advantage Endure?”


Cassio M. Turra, Elisenda Renteria,

and Raquel Guimarães

“The Effect of Changes in Educational Composition on Adult Female Mortality in Brazil”


Joseph L. Saenz and Rebeca Wong

“Educational Gradients and Pathways of Disability Onset Among Older Mexicans”



J. Yahirun, Connor M. Sheehan, and Mark D. Hayward


“Adult Children’s Education and Parents’ Functional Limitations

in Mexico”

Stipica Mudrazija, Mariana Lopez-Ortega,

William A. Vega, Luis Miguel Gutiérrez-Robledo, and William Sribney


“Household Composition and Longitudinal Health Outcomes for Older Mexican Return Migrants”


Terrence D. Hill, Bert N. Uchino,

Jessica L. Eckhardt, and Jacqueline L. Angel

“Perceived Social Support Trajectories and the All-Cause Mortality Risk of Older Mexican American Women and Men”


Juanita J. Chinn and Robert A. Hummer

“Racial Disparities in Functional Limitations Among Hispanic Women in the United States”


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Sara Miller McCune founded SAGE Publishing in 1965 to support the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global community. SAGE is a leading international provider of innovative, high-quality content publishing more than 900 journals and over 800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. Our growing selection of library products includes archives, data, case studies and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our founder and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that secures the company’s continued independence. Principal offices are located in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC and Melbourne.

Research on Aging (ROA), peer-reviewed and published eight times a year, is an interdisciplinary journal designed to reflect the expanding role of research in the field of social gerontology. For over three decades, scholars, researchers and professionals like yourself have turned to ROA for the latest analyses on the critical issues facing today's elderly population. This outstanding journal serves as an international forum on the aged and the ageing process, providing you with the knowledge you need to help improve practices and policies concerning the elderly.

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