Skip to main content Accessibility help

How do Latino Immigrants Perceive the Current Sociopolitical Context? Identifying Opportunities to Improve Immigrant Health in the United States

  • JANE J. LEE (a1) and YUANJIN ZHOU (a1)

Migration is an important social determinant of health for immigrants in the United States. Increased attention on Latino immigrants in recent years has sparked interest in policies that affect this population. While prior research has assessed the potential health impact of specific immigration policies, there is limited understanding of how the overall sociopolitical context shapes the health of Latino immigrants. This study examines the potential mechanisms that link the sociopolitical context and health among Latino immigrants. Specifically, we explore how perceptions of the sociopolitical context are implicated in this relationship. Qualitative interviews with community gatekeepers (n=13) and Latino immigrants (n=34) in New York City revealed general perceptions about the overall sociopolitical context, which were characterized by discrimination towards immigrants, unpredictable and mercurial circumstances, and confusion and lack of information. These perceptions influenced participants’ psycho-emotional health and health-related behaviors. Findings suggest the importance of integrating immigrants’ perceptions of the sociopolitical context into health promotion efforts. Furthermore, findings demonstrate the need for paradigm shifts in developing policy-related actions to integrate immigrants’ perspectives. We propose an integrated, multi-level framework to guide future research and practice regarding social determinants of immigrant health.

Hide All
Acevedo-Garcia, D., Sanchez-Vaznaugh, E.V., Viruell-Fuentes, E.A. and Almeida, J. (2012), ‘Integrating social epidemiology into immigrant health research: A cross-national framework’, Social Science & Medicine, 75, 12, 20602068.
Alcántara, C., Chen, C.N. and Alegría, M. (2014), ‘Do post-migration perceptions of social mobility matter for Latino immigrant health?’, Social Science & Medicine, 101, 94106.
Baumeister, R.F. and Leary, M.R. (1995), ‘The need to belong: desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation’, Psychological Bulletin, 117, 3, 497529.
Borowski, A. (2000), ‘Creating a virtuous society: immigration and Australia’s policies of multiculturalism.’, Journal of Social Policy, 29, 3, 459475.
Brewer, N.T., Chapman, G.B., Gibbons, F.X., Gerrard, M., McCaul, K.D. and Weinstein, N.D. (2007), ‘Meta-analysis of the relationship between risk perception and health behavior: the example of vaccination’, Health Psychology, 26, 2, 136145.
Butler, S.M. (2017), ‘Building blocks for addressing social determinants of health’, JAMA, 318, 19, 18551856.
Calzada, I. (2018), ‘Social protection without borders? the use of social services by retirement migrants living in Spain’, Journal of Social Policy, 47, 1, 2137.
Carey, G. and Crammond, B. (2015), ‘Action on the social determinants of health: views from inside the policy process’, Social Science & Medicine, 128, 134141.
Carey, G., Crammond, B. and Keast, R. (2014), ‘Creating change in government to address the social determinants of health: how can efforts be improved?’, BMC Public Health, 14, 1, 1087.
Castañeda, H., Holmes, S.M., Madrigal, D.S., Young, M.E.D., Beyeler, N. and Quesada, J. (2015), ‘Immigration as a social determinant of health’, Annual Review of Public Health, 36, 375392.
Charmaz, K. and Belgrave, L.L. (2007), Grounded Theory, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Cheung, S.Y. and Phillimore, J. (2017), ‘Gender and refugee integration: a quantitative analysis of integration and social policy outcomes’, Journal of Social Policy, 46, 2, 211230.
Farmer, T., Robinson, K., Elliott, S.J. and Eyles, J. (2006), ‘Developing and implementing a triangulation protocol for qualitative health research’, Qualitative health Research, 16, 3, 377394.
Fisher, M., Baum, F.E., Macdougall, C., Newman, L. and McDermott, D. (2016), ‘To what extent do Australian health policy documents address social determinants of health and health equity?’, Journal of Social Policy, 45, 3, 545564.
Glanz, K. and Bishop, D.B. (2010), ‘The role of behavioral science theory in development and implementation of public health interventions’, Annual Review of Public Health, 31, 399418.
Greenspan, I., Walk, M. and Handy, F. (2018), ‘Immigrant integration through volunteering: the importance of contextual factors’, Journal of Social Policy, 47, 4, 803825.
Harder, N., Figueroa, L., Gillum, R.M., Hangartner, D., Laitin, D.D. and Hainmueller, J. (2018), ‘Multidimensional measure of immigrant integration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, 115, 45, 1148311488.
Hatzenbuehler, M.L., Phelan, J.C. and Link, B.G. (2013), ‘Stigma as a fundamental cause of population health inequalities’, American Journal of Public Health, 103, 5, 813821.
Hatzenbuehler, M.L., Prins, S.J., Flake, M., Philbin, M., Frazer, M.S., Hagen, D. and Hirsch, J. (2017), ‘Immigration policies and mental health morbidity among Latinos: A state-level analysis’, Social Science & Medicine, 174, 169178.
Hill, C.E., Thompson, B.J. and Williams, E. (1997), ‘A guide to conducting consensual qualitative research’, The Counseling Psychologist, 25, 4, 517572.
Leonardi, F. (2018), ‘The definition of health: towards new perspectives’, International Journal of Health Services, 48, 4, 735748.
Lobo, A.P. and Salvo, J.J. (2013), The newest New Yorkers: characteristics of the city’s foreign-born population City of New York . New York: Department of City Planning, Office of Immigrant Affairs.
McCluney, C.L., Schmitz, L.L., Hicken, M.T. and Sonnega, A. (2018), ‘Structural racism in the workplace: does perception matter for health inequalities?’, Social Science & Medicine, 199, 106114.
Morey, B.N. (2018), ‘Mechanisms by which anti-Immigrant stigma exacerbates racial/ethnic health disparities’, American Journal of Public Health, 108, 4, 460463.
Mulvey, G. (2018), ‘Social citizenship, social policy and refugee integration: a case of policy divergence in Scotland?’, Journal of Social Policy, 47, 1, 161178.
National Academies of Sciences. (2015), ‘Legal status and immigrant integration’, In: Waters, E.M.C. and Pineau, M.G. (Eds.). The integration of immigrants into American society, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Øversveen, E., Rydland, H.T., Bambra, C. and Eikemo, T.A. (2017), ‘Rethinking the relationship between socio-economic status and health: Making the case for sociological theory in health inequality research’, Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 45, 2, 103112.
Philbin, M.M., Flake, M., Hatzenbuehler, M.L. and Hirsch, J.S. (2018), ‘State-level immigration and immigrant-focused policies as drivers of Latino health disparities in the United States’, Social Science & Medicine, 199, 2938.
Raphael, D. (2006), ‘Social determinants of health: present status, unanswered questions, and future directions’, International Journal of Health Services, 36, 4, 651677.
Santos, C., Menjívar, C. and Godfrey, E. (2013), ‘Effects of SB 1070 on children’, In: Magaña, L. and Lee, E. (Eds.), Latino politics and Arizona’s immigration law SB 1070, immigrants and minorities, politics and policy (pp. 7992), Springer, New York, NY.
Shutes, I. (2016), Work-related conditionality and the access to social benefits of national citizens, EU and non-EU citizens’. Journal of Social Policy, 45, 4, 691707.
Vega, W.A. and Rumbaut, R.G. (1991), ‘Ethnic minorities and mental health’, Annual Review of Sociology, 17, 1, 351383.
Wilensky, G.R. and Satcher, D. (2009), ‘Don’t forget about the social determinants of health’, Health Affairs, 28, 2, w194w198.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-social-policy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Lee and Zhou supplementary material
Table S1

 Word (17 KB)
17 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed