Mapping Key Determinants of Immigrants’ Health in Brooklyn and Queens

Vicky Virgin and Robert Warren
Center for Migration Studies

Editorial credit: Keith Sherwood

Mapping Key Determinants of Immigrants’ Health in Brooklyn and Queens


Executive Summary

This study maps the determinants of immigrant health in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. In doing so, it seeks to enable healthcare providers, government agencies, and non-profit immigrant-serving entities – including faith-based entities – to identify gaps in their services to immigrant populations, and to help meet the need – healthcare and other – of diverse immigrant communities at heightened risk of adverse health outcomes.

This report relies primarily on data collected in the American Community Survey (ACS), the largest US household survey, covering approximately one percent of the population (Ruggles et al. 2020). Detailed social and economic statistics are available for New York City (NYC) at the community district (CD) level. The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) derived estimates of the undocumented population for each CD from data collected in the ACS. CMS also examined other sources, such as data from NYC’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DoHMH) and the Housing and Vacancy Survey, which provided important context for this analysis.

A literature review for this study revealed that immigrants’ health outcomes are related to social and economic conditions such as poverty status, ability to speak English, level of education, housing conditions, and health insurance. Detailed statistics for each CD in Queens and Brooklyn show the following:

  • Immigrants in the Queens neighborhoods of Elmhurst/South Corona, Jackson Heights/ North Corona, and Flushing/Murray Hill/Whitestone are most at risk of poor health outcomes. These neighborhoods in northern Queens all experience high levels of overcrowding, share of undocumented residents, limited English proficiency (LEP), and percent uninsured.
  • Sunset Park/Windsor Terrace is the most vulnerable neighborhood for adverse health outcomes in Brooklyn. The CD has the highest percent of LEP and of those lacking a high school education.
  • Bushwick is the next Brooklyn neighborhood most at risk for adverse health outcomes. This CD has the highest share of noncitizens without health insurance, the second-highest poverty rate, and the second-highest percentage with less than a high school degree.
  • Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights in Brooklyn has a vulnerable population of at-risk noncitizens; this CD has the highest poverty rate of all the CDs in Brooklyn.
  • This study also found that naturalized citizens have health profiles more like the nativeborn population than like noncitizens.
  • Noncitizens have relatively larger percentages of essential workers than the native-born or naturalized populations and thus are more likely to have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Mapping Key Determinants of Immigrants’ Health in Brooklyn and Queens 2
  • Lack of health insurance – an important health determinant – affects the undocumented population more than it does residents with legal status; approximately half of undocumented residents do not have health insurance.
  • Health determinants identified in the literature and analyzed here are highly correlated with each other: that is, if a neighborhood has one or two of the health indicators described here, they are likely to be vulnerable on the other measures. The report suggests the need for a holistic approach to services provided to immigrants in these neighborhoods.
  • Commonly used health indicators for the general population are not applicable to immigrant populations. For example, the homicide rate, a universally accepted health indicator, is quite low in the most vulnerable immigrant communities. This example illustrates the importance of collecting health-related data by legal status.


This project was supported by a grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation whose mission is to improve the health and wellness of disadvantaged and underserved people in New York.

Author Names

Vicky Virgin and Robert Warren

Date of Publication February 23, 2021
DOI 10.14240/cmsrpt0221


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