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Am J Phys Anthropol. 1997 Jan;102(1):17-32.

Plasticity, political economy, and physical growth status of Guatemala Maya children living in the United States.

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Department of Behavioral Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn 48128, USA.


Migration of Maya refugees to the United States since the late 1970s affords the opportunity to study the consequences of life in a new environment on the growth of Maya children. The children of this study live in Indiantown, Florida, and Los Angeles, California. Maya children between 4 and 14 years old (n = 240) were measured for height, weight, fatness, and muscularity. Overall, compared with reference data for the United States, the Maya children are, on average, healthy and well nourished. They are taller and heavier and carry more fat and muscle mass than Maya children living in a village in Guatemala. However, they are shorter, on average, than children of black, Mexican-American, and white ethnicity living in Indiantown. Children of Maya immigrants born in the United States tend to be taller than immigrant children born in Guatemala or Mexico. Families that invest economic and social resources in their children have taller children. More economic successful families have taller children. Migration theory and political economy theory from the social sciences are combined with plasticity theory and life history theory (parental investment) from biology to interpret these data.

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