Household Income and Children’s Depressive Symptoms: Immigrants’ Diminished Returns

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Family Medicine, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Los Angeles, CA 90059, USA

2 Department of Urban Public Health, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Los Angeles, CA 90059, USA


Introduction: Relative to socially privileged groups, socially marginalized people experience weaker health effects of household income and other economic resources, a pattern known as Minorities’ Diminished Returns (MDRs). These MDRs are frequently seen in racial and ethnic minorities, but less is known about the relevance of such MDRs in immigrant families. To investigate the MDRs of household income on children’s depression as a function of immigration, we compared non-immigrant and immigrant children for the effect of household income on children’s depressive symptoms.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted across multiple cities in the United States. Baseline data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study collected in 2018 was used. A total of 6,412 children between the ages of 9-10 years old were included. The predictor variable was household income. The primary outcome was children’s depression measured by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Race, ethnicity, age, sex, parental marital status, parental employment, and financial difficulties were the covariates. Immigration status was the effect modifier.
Results: Overall, high household income was associated with lower children’s depressive symptoms. Immigration status showed a statistically significant interaction with household income on children’s depression. This interaction term suggested that high household income has a smaller protective effect against depression for immigrant children than non-immigrant children.
Conclusion: The protective effect of household income against children’s depression is diminished for immigrant than non-immigrant children.