Arun Hendi, an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, was recently awarded a $2.6 million grant over the next five years from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institute of Health.
At a time when migration is reconfiguring the makeup of American communities, and that reconfiguration is driving change in local and national life expectancy levels, Prof. Hendi will receive research funding to launch a project on how migration (both internationally and domestically) influences geographic variation in life expectancy across the United States.
This new project will be the first to examine not only the life expectancies of migrants themselves, but the spillover effects of migration on non-migrants. The groundbreaking project will examine whether and how migrants influence the life expectancies of the native-born population, using an innovative research design that will allow the research team to tease out how much of these effects are causation versus correlation. The project will subsequently examine how both international and domestic migration drive these trends and may be contributing to growing geographic and urban-rural disparities in life expectancy.
The project is a joint endeavor with Jessica Ho, an Associate Professor of Sociology and Demography at The Pennsylvania State University. Together, their previous work on this topic has shown that American immigrants have among the highest life expectancies of any major population in the world. Prof. Hendl has previously conducted research using demographic methods to study socioeconomic and racial inequalities in life expectancy and health; changing trends in marriage, divorce, and assortative mating; and population dynamics in cities and rural areas.
Prof. Hendi and Prof. Ho will also use newly available census data that allows researchers to track individual migration histories across decades and link those histories to mortality records and death certificate data. Since many high-income countries today receive high levels of immigration, the project will explore how distinct migration streams across developed countries have driven growing international differentials in life expectancy, creating a significant international component to the study that also explores the long history of immigration in the United States.
Previous research has found that migrants can influence local mortality levels by making areas where they settle better places to live. Some of the reasons behind this include:
- They can improve accessibility and quality of care since many work in healthcare.
- They increase the tax base of an area, contributing to improvements in local infrastructure and government services.
- They reshape culture and the environment by increasing the availability of healthy ethnic foods, accelerating economic growth, and promoting safe neighborhoods.
“Immigration has been transformative for America and will continue to transform the country for decades to come,” said Prof. Hendi. “If we are interested in understanding the future of American life expectancy then we must understand how migration will shape that future.”