Friday, April 20, 2007

Are immigrants crazier than the rest of us? Cho Seung-Hui was clearly not right in the head. Is this a common problem among immigrants? Mentally troubled people might escape the messes they've made at home by moving to another country. Or maybe stress from living in an alien culture might send some over the edge.

General Social Survey participants were asked if they have ever suffered from a mental illness. This is the share who said "yes":

Percent having had mental illness

Native-born 7.5
Immigrants 4.5

Keep in mind that the immigrant sample is only 89 people, but these results indicate a comparatively healthy immigrant population. Immigrants, at least those from distant lands, have to be pretty high-functioning to navigate the challenges of a new life. If I find data on the children of immigrants, I'll post the results.


  1. Anonymous11:03 AM

    One obvious problem might be that immigrants may not be as inclined to seek out help for mental disorders, especially for those mental illnesses that are not as disabling as schizophrenia.

  2. Another thing is that Cho was a 1.5 genner, not an immigrant (a 1.5 is someone who has lived for a considerable amount of time in both the land of birth and USA). There is a difference from immigrants born and brought up in native lands and immigrants who are brought up in America. My guess would be that people who are born and brought up in America will have the least amount of stress, followed by people who are born and brought up in their native country who stay in the US, with people who are brought up in both countries having the highest number of mental illness like depression.

  3. Anonymous4:46 PM

    4.5 still means one in twenty do. Cases like Cho are awful but so rare they really don't mean anything about the group in question as a whole. Sorry guys, Koreans are pretty law-abiding overall. And these sort of spree killings are more of a white thing.

  4. avi: Right, I'm looking for data to support (or contradict) that.

  5. Anonymous6:49 AM

    And what is mental illness anyway? These days if you are not happy you get to call it depression and there you are youre not unhappy - youre ill!

    Many immigrants come from more robust cultures where such pampering is not an option.

    My point is that this might inflate the figures for native mental ill health and reduce those for immigrants.


Is skin tone correlated with job prestige?

The General Social Survey rated the skin darkness of a sample of black Americans, ranging from "very dark brown" to "very lig...