Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Hunger and health among undocumented Mexican migrants in a US urban area

Craig Hadleya1 c1, Sandro Galeaa1, Vijay Nandia2, Arijit Nandia3, Gerald Lopeza4, Stacey Strongaronea4 and Danielle Ompada2

a1 Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, USA

a2 New York Academy of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA

a3 Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

a4 New York University School of Law, New York, NY 10012, USA


Objectives To measure the occurrence and correlates of hunger and to evaluate the association between hunger and three health indicators among undocumented Mexican immigrants.

Design Non-probability cross-sectional sample.

Setting Neighbourhoods within New York City.

Subjects Four hundred and thirty-one undocumented Mexican immigrants living in the USA.

Results Hunger was indicated by approximately 28% of respondents. In a multivariate model, working as a day labourer was associated with hunger (odds ratio (OR) 3.33, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.83–6.06) while receiving public assistance protected against hunger (OR 0.23, 95% CI 0.06–0.88). In multivariate models, respondents who reported experiencing hunger also reported poorer overall health (OR 1.69, 95% CI 0.95–3.02) and more days of poor mental (P = 0.045) and physical health (P < 0.0001). Greater amount of time lived in the USA was also associated with worse overall health (P = 0.054) and more days of poor mental and physical health (P < 0.01).

Conclusions The present study shows that food insecurity and hunger may be problems among undocumented migrants living in the USA. Uncertain and unpredictable work schedules and limited access to public assistance may contribute to high levels of hunger, which in turn may also negatively affect mental and physical health. Increasing amount of time lived in the USA is also associated with poorer health indicators. Programmes that provide undocumented migrants with emergency access to resources may reduce food insecurity and lead to improved health outcomes among this vulnerable population.

(Received July 14 2006)

(Accepted March 08 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Email