Professor Chih-Chien Huang Shares Research

By Robert Hughes '20 | March 20, 2019

Professor Huang presenting

On March 13, Professor Chih-Chien Huang gave her lecture titled, “The Influence of Acculturation and Weight-Related Behaviors on Body Mass Index among Asian American Ethnic Subgroups” as part of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ ongoing Faculty Research Colloquium series.

The series gives faculty members of Saint Anselm College an opportunity to present their research and findings. Huang is an assistant professor in the sociology and social work department and teaches a variety of courses. She earned her Ph.D. from Arizona State University and has had her work published in many academic journals.

Huang’s lecture examined the variations in BMI amongst Asian American and Asian immigrant subgroups across the United States, focusing particularly on people from China, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia. The effects of acculturation, or how immigrants adapt to American culture, was also examined in Huang’s study. In her lecture, she examined a number of factors that could contribute to Asian Americans’ BMI.

The effects of socioeconomic status were one of Huang’s main points. She pointed out that there is a positive relationship between socioeconomic status and obesity in poor countries: increases in one’s economic status in a poor country tends to increase the risk of obesity. In wealthy countries like the United States, the relationship between obesity and economic status is negative: an increase in one’s socioeconomic status reduces the risk of obesity. Professor Huang explained that lifestyle influences obesity: since fast food and junk food is cheaper, people of lower socioeconomic status tend to consume it more in the United States.

Huang’s research also examined the influence of the Immigrant Paradox on obesity rates among Asian Americans. In general, first generation immigrants tend to have lower obesity rates than their children born in the United States. This certainly proves to be true of immigrants to the United States from around the world, but there exists no explanation as to why.

Huang surveyed 3,298 Asian immigrants, primarily from California because most Asian immigrants go to California. The main factors that influenced the survey included acculturation, length of residence, and English proficiency.

Her findings varied per each individual ethnic group. She found, in general, that Filipinos tend to have higher rates of acculturation and of obesity amongst the Asian American sub-ethnic groups. Huang’s findings also reinforced the commonly accepted finding that Asians immigrants who had a fluent grasp of the English language tended to have lower BMIs.

Huang’s research comes at a time where immigration has become one of the premier national political issues and where obesity rates have been increasing in the United States. Her research has implications for the immigrant experience and the lifestyle of immigrants; how factors of socioeconomic status, cultural adaptation, and language skills are all key points in the immigrant experience, and how these factors influence obesity among immigrants, particularly Asian immigrants. Her research gives us a deeper understanding of the immigrant experience.