Structural Racism and Immigrant Health in the United States

Supriya Misra, Simona C. Kwon, Ana F. Abraído-Lanza, Perla Chebli, Chau Trinh-Shevrin, Stella S. Yi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immigration has been historically and contemporarily racialized in the United States. Although each immigrant group has unique histories, current patterns, and specific experiences, racialized immigrant groups such as Latino, Asian, and Arab immigrants all experience health inequities that are not solely due to nativity or years of residence but also influenced by conditional citizenship and subjective sense of belonging or othering. Critical race theory and intersectionality provide a critical lens to consider how structural racism might uniquely impact the health of racialized immigrants, and to understand and intervene on the interlocking systems that shape these shared experiences and health consequences. We build on and synthesize the work of prior scholars to advance how society codifies structural disadvantages for racialized immigrants into governmental and institutional policies and how that affects health via three key pathways that emerged from our review of the literature: (1) formal racialization via immigration policy and citizenship status that curtails access to material and health resources and political and civic participation; (2) informal racialization via disproportionate immigration enforcement and criminalization including ongoing threats of detention and deportation; and (3) intersections with economic exploitation and disinvestment such as labor exploitation and neighborhood disinvestment. We hope this serves as a call to action to change the dominant narratives around immigrant health, provides conceptual and methodological recommendations to advance research, and illuminates the essential role of the public health sector to advocate for changes in other sectors including immigration policy, political rights, law enforcement, labor protections, and neighborhood investment, among others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-341
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Education and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Arab Americans
  • Asian Americans
  • Latino Americans
  • health inequities
  • immigrant health
  • structural racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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