Disability among Hispanic Subgroups: The Effect of Duration of Residence on Physical Disability among Hispanic Immigrants

Open Access
Sanchez Quiros, Susana M
Graduate Program:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
July 11, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Jennifer Lynne Van Hook, Thesis Advisor
  • Michelle Lynn Frisco, Thesis Advisor
  • Marianne Messersmith Hillemeier, Thesis Advisor
  • Hispanic
  • immigrants
  • disability
The number of elderly Hispanics, most of whom are immigrants, is growing faster than any other minority group. Even though Hispanics are expected to live longer than non-Hispanic whites, they spend more years living with a disability. Elderly Hispanics are a socially vulnerable group that faces particular financial needs as they tend to have low educational attainment, high levels of poverty, and are more likely to lack health insurance. Understanding the socioeconomic factors associated with physical disability among Hispanics is critical in order to inform public policy to address the needs of this population. I use pooled data from the American Community Survey (ACS) 2008-2012 to examine differences in self-reported physical disability among Hispanic immigrants. First, I determine whether the burden of physical disability is evenly distributed among Hispanic immigrant subgroups, after accounting for demographic and socioeconomic factors. Secondly, I examine whether the relationship between duration of residence in the country and physical disability varies by Hispanic immigrant subgroup. Finally, I explore whether any association between duration of residence and physical limitations can be explained by demographic and socioeconomic differences among Hispanics. Multivariate logistic regressions indicated that there are significant differences among Hispanic immigrant subgroups with Cubans, Central Americans, Mexicans, and Dominicans being more disadvantaged than South Americans. The results indicate that there are little or no significant differences in physical disability among recent arrivals. However, among immigrants with longer residence in the country, Mexicans have higher odds of reporting physical disability than any other immigrant group. While socioeconomic factors, educational attainment, income-to-poverty ratio, occupation, race, and English ability differences reduce the association between length of residence and physical disability, these factors did not explain the observed associations. This study demonstrated that there are important differences among Hispanic immigrant subgroups in physical disability and in their health trajectories.