Prof studying health of immigrant children

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Photo of Mónica García-Pérez, assistant professor of economics

Mónica García-Pérez, assistant professor of economics, holds degrees from universities on three continents. Her specialty is labor economics. Photo by Jeff Wood for University Communications.

Come May, Mónica García-Pérez is expected to publish research regarding child health outcomes of immigrant children and children of immigrants.

The importance of her research is tied to a major national demographic shift. First- and second-generation children of immigrants are the fastest-growing growing segment of the population, according to García-Pérez, an assistant professor in the Department of Economics.

Understanding health-care access and health outcomes will have political, social and public-policy implications. Economists and other academics have explored immigrant health issues in the past, but few have examined these issues through succeeding generations, said García-Pérez.

Among the questions García-Pérez will tackle: Why do non-citizen Hispanics and Asians self-report higher levels of health among their children despite lower access to traditional health care?

Immigrants and the children of immigrants are much less likely to have health insurance and tend to visit doctors less often than non-immigrants and their children, García-Pérez said.

But, she argues, lack of insurance may not be the only reason immigrants see doctors less often.

García-Pérez hypothesizes that use of alternative medicines and unfamiliarity with Western medical systems may also explain why some immigrant groups do not regularly engage with medical clinics.

Her analysis of 2009 and 2010 data suggests non-citizen children of foreign-born parents have the lowest rates of participation in traditional health care.

García-Pérez specializes in labor economics and is a member of the university's Faculty Research Group on Immigrant Workers in Minnesota.

Her Nov. 30 presentation in Atwood Memorial Center was a Brown Bag Colloquium sponsored by the research group, which is part of the university's Social Science Research Institute.

She holds master's and doctorate degrees in economics from the University of Maryland, College Park. She earned a master's degree in economics at University College London and a bachelor's degree in economics from Universidad Central de Venezuela.

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