Impact of Career Experiences on Health Outcomes Among Immigrants in the Midwest

Impact of Career Experiences on Health Outcomes Among Immigrants in the Midwest

Caroline Kingori, Mohammad Rifat Haider, Seleshi Ayalew Asfaw, Senya Afi Ghamli
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5811-9.ch005
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Immigrants in the US work in diverse professions and contribute to the economy. They play an important role in the economies in which they settle by complementing the skills lacking and create a level playing field for wages in the labor market. The U.S. Midwest has seen exceptionally high growth in immigrant populations in recent decades. While employment leads to a better quality of life when workers can afford basic necessities, immigrants encounter dire health challenges due to unemployment, underemployment, extreme working conditions, long work hours, and no paid leave. There is limited research examining the connection between career development experiences with the health of immigrant workers. This chapter examines the impact that employment circumstances have on skilled immigrants' health outcomes in the Midwest.
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The term immigrant takes on various definitions across the literature, but is collectively described as an individual who has moved from one country to another looking to settle and become a citizen, in order to enhance their socioeconomic status (Douglas, Cetron, Spiegel, 2019; UNDESA, 1998; Perruchoud, 1992). Immigrants work in diverse professions and contribute to the economy (Cadenas, 2018). They play an important role in the economies in which they settle by complementing the skills lacking and eventually creating a level playing field for wages and amenities in the labor market. Recent immigrants tend to be more educated and are willing to put in more working hours (Saleheen and Shadforth, 2006). Currently, there are almost two million highly skilled immigrants in the US who are either unemployed or working in low-skilled jobs, a phenomenon known as skill underutilization or brain waste (Batalova, Fix, Mittelstadt, & Zeitlin, 2016).

Many immigrants are reportedly unsatisfied with their employment opportunities in the US. They perceive themselves as underemployed and experience challenges advancing in their careers due to a lack of adequate skills, appropriate networks, literacy, language skills, and necessary certifications (Furbish, 2012; Opoku-Dapaah, 2017). Consequently, many immigrants are at risk of poor health outcomes potentially impact their physical and mental health status due to high levels of stress produced by strenuous working conditions (Furbish, 2012). Such stress levels are exacerbated by family pressure, loss of appropriate skills, overeducation, low income, overqualification, nature of supervision, lack of health insurance and outdated immigration policies (Fisher, 2016). Those who have no access to insurance will not be compelled to seek health care services, a situation that will conversely increase stress levels in the workplace (Fisher, 2016).

Healthcare is expensive in the US, a country that has the highest per capita healthcare expenditure ($11,172 per person in 2018) compared to any other (, 2020). With immigration considered as one of the major social determinants of health (Castaneda et al.,2015), anti-immigration policies in recent years have made health care inaccessible for undocumented immigrants and unaffordable for the legal immigrants in the US (Martinez et al., 2015; KFF, 2020).

The U.S. Midwest has seen exceptionally high growth in immigrant populations in recent decades (Cohen & Chavez, 2013). Across all immigrant groups in the Midwest, Latino immigrants comprised 60.7 percent of the population growth. Other immigrant groups include Eritreans, Hmong, Lao, Cambodians, Somalis and Tibetans (Immigration History Research Center, 2020). In Ohio, immigrants comprised about four percent of all residents as of 2015. They hail from India (12.4%), Mexico (8.7%), China (7.1%), Germany (3.5%), and Canada (3.2%). Furthermore, a little less than half of the adult immigrants (42%) were reported to have a college education while only 17.5 percent had a high school diploma (American Immigration Council, 2017).

It is estimated that immigrant owned businesses (5% of all self-owned business) in Ohio generated an annual revenue of 441.3 million dollars in 2015 and had a combined spending power of 11.1 billion dollars. Moreover, immigrants in Ohio work in various industries such as healthcare and social services, manufacturing, food services, retail and education (American Immigration Council, 2017). With regard to occupation, when compared to everyone else, in 2015, majority of the immigrants in Ohio worked in social, life and physical sciences (16.5%) and computer and mathematical fields (14.1%) (American Immigration Council, 2017). Such information signifies the integral role that immigrants play in the economic growth of the nation, and the extent to which their contributions benefit their communities and the host country.

Career development opportunities for immigrants are also sparse. Although every one in six workers in the US is an immigrant, this special group cannot develop their skills or obtain necessary licensing or degree because of barriers, such as limited English proficiency, difficulty transferring foreign credentials, low digital literacy, high housing cost, lack of transportation and childcare, and financial pressure (Bernstain and Vilter, 2018). Consequently, these barriers have resulted in immigrants pursuing career opportunities that are not commensurate with their skill levels.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Career Experiences: Events that one undergoes throughout their career trajectory.

Underemployment: It is a situation in which a worker is employed, but his/her work hours and/or wages have been reduced or changed for reasons other than the worker's request.

Physical Health: Condition of the body, taking into consideration everything from the absence of disease to fitness level.

Career Development: It is the lifelong process of managing learning, work, leisure, and transitions in order to move toward a personally determined and evolving preferred future.

Midwest: The Midwestern United States (or Midwest) is a name for the north-central states of the United States of America. The states that are part of the Midwest are: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.

Immigrants: People who move from one country to another in search of better economic opportunities.

Health Outcomes: Change in the health of an individual, group of people, or population that is attributable to an intervention or series of interventions. Outcome measures include mortality, readmission, patient experience, etc.

Mental Health: A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

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