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Anthropometric evidence on economic growth, biological well-being and regional convergence in the Habsburg Monarchy, c. 1850–1910


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  • John Komlos

    (Department of Economics, University of Munich, Ludwigstraße 33/IV, 80539 Munich, Germany)


We examine secular trends in biological well-being in the Habsburg Monarchy circa 1850–1910 on the basis of evidence on the physical stature of recruits disaggregated at the regional level. We find that heights stagnated generally among the 1850s birth cohorts. The secular increase in heights that lasted until the twenty-first century began among the 1860s birth cohorts. Men born in the more developed Czech and Austria areas were as tall as many populations in Western Europe, whereas the men born in the Polish/Ukrainian provinces were about as tall as the Mediterranean populations. There was a 3.3 cm gap between the heights of men living in the core versus periphery of the Monarchy, which reflects a substantial gap in biological living standards. We also consider spatial convergence of biological living standards. Heights did not converge across the different provinces of the Monarchy at all in the 1850s, diverged in the 1860s, and began to converge subsequently. Convergence was more rapid among those born in the 1880s than among the cohorts of the 1870s, even though the average rate of increase in heights was greater in the 1870s than in the 1880s. The convergence was limited to the peripheral regions (Polish/Ukrainian, Romanian, and Slovakian). No convergence was evident among the Austrian, Czech, Hungarian or Croatian areas. By the end of the period under consideration the gap between Austrian and Polish/Ukrainian heights was reduced to 1.5 cm. The evidence on heights is quite similar to the evidence on GDP growth insofar as it points to some positive elements but is by no means uniformly favorable. The Monarchy was not stagnating, or about to collapse on the eve of World War I on account of economic considerations as the Soviet Union did, but it was also not among the high-achievers of the era as the Scandinavian countries or Germany.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC) in its journal Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History.

Volume (Year): 1 (2007)
Issue (Month): 3 (October)
Pages: 211-237

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Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:1:y:2007:i:3:p:211-237

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Keywords: Biological standard of living; Regional convergence; Habsburg Monarchy; Physical stature; Anthropometric history; Economic growth;

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Cited by:
  1. Batty, G. David & Shipley, Martin J. & Gunnell, David & Huxley, Rachel & Kivimaki, Mika & Woodward, Mark & Lee, Crystal Man Ying & Smith, George Davey, 2009. "Height, wealth, and health: An overview with new data from three longitudinal studies," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 137-152, July.
  2. Aschoff, Diethard & Hiermeyer, Martin, 2009. "The physical stature of Jewish men in the German Principality of Salm, 1802-1807," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 107-108, March.
  3. Mark Koyama & Jean-Paul Carvalho, . "Development and Religious Polarization: The Emergence of Reform and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism," Discussion Papers 11/11, Department of Economics, University of York.
  4. Hatton, Timothy J. & Bray, Bernice E., 2010. "Long run trends in the heights of European men, 19th-20th centuries," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 405-413, December.
  5. Hiermeyer, Martin, 2009. "Height and BMI values of German conscripts in 2000, 2001 and 1906," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 366-375, December.
  6. Ward, W. Peter, 2013. "Stature, migration and human welfare in South China, 1850–1930," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 488-501.
  7. Baten, Joerg, 2009. "Protein supply and nutritional status in nineteenth century Bavaria, Prussia and France," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 165-180, July.
  8. Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January.
  9. Richmond, Tracy K. & Walls, Courtney E. & Subramanian, S.V., 2013. "The association of adolescent socioeconomic position and adult height: Variation across racial/ethnic groups," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 178-184.
  10. Özer, Basak Koca & SagIr, Mehmet & Özer, Ismail, 2011. "Secular changes in the height of the inhabitants of Anatolia (Turkey) from the 10th millennium B.C. to the 20th century A.D," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 211-219, March.
  11. Kopczynski, Michal, 2007. "Agrarian reforms, agrarian crisis and the biological standard of living in Poland, 1844-1892," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 458-470, December.
  12. John Komlos & Leonard Carlson, 2010. "The Anthropometric History of Native Americans, c. 1820-1890," Emory Economics 1006, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
  13. Blum, Matthias, 2013. "The influence of inequality on the standard of living: Worldwide anthropometric evidence from the 19th and 20th centuries," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 436-452.
  14. Cvrcek, Tomas, 2009. "Inequality and living standards under early communism: Anthropometric evidence from Czechoslovakia, 1946-1966," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(4), pages 436-449, October.
  15. Kopczynski, Michal, 2011. "The physical stature of Jewish men in Poland in the second half of the 19th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 203-210, March.


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