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Self-Rated Health among Foreign- and Native-Born Individuals: A Test of Comparability

Self-rated health is an indicator of general health and a robust predictor of morbidity, mortality, subsequent disability, and health care utilization. The 5-category health status scale is used in a wide range of surveys across many countries. Some research suggests that self-rated health response categories may be biased for certain social groups. Using data on Asian Americans from the National Latino and Asian American Study, we test whether immigrants are less likely to report the extreme ends of the scale than their native-born counterparts. Because individuals may differ on a number of dimensions, we use propensity score matching to derive groups who share similar demographic and health characteristics. Each native-born person is matched to a foreign-born of the same ethnicity by nearest available Mahalanobis metric within a caliper defined by the propensity score. Propensity score framework allows us to make descriptive comparisons of self-rated health responses by nativity status, controlling for background characteristics. Our results indicate that for Asian Americans nativity is not associated with higher likelihood of reporting the extreme ends of the health status scale.