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The biological standard of living in Europe during the last two millennia

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  • KOEPKE, NIKOLA
  • BATEN, JOERG

Abstract

This study offers the first anthropometric estimates of the biological standard of living in Europe during the first millennium AD, and extends the literature on the second millennium. The overall picture drawn from our data is one of stagnant heights. There was no large-scale progress in European nutritional status over the period studied, not even for the period between 1000 and 1800, for which recent GDP per capita estimates indicate increasing development. We find that heights stagnated in Central, Western and Southern Europe during the Roman imperial period, while astonishingly increasing in the fifth and sixth centuries. Noteworthy also is the similarity of height development in the three large regions of Europe. In an exploratory regression analysis of height determinants, population density turns out to have been an economically (not statistically) significant and negative factor, indicating the relevance of decreasing marginal product theories and Malthusian theory for the pre-1800 period. Of marginal significance, however, were climate (warmer temperatures being favourable for a good nutritional status), social inequality and gender inequality (both reducing average height). Lastly, we also discuss the limitations of our approach.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal European Review of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 9 (2005)
Issue (Month): 01 (April)
Pages: 61-95

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Handle: RePEc:cup:ereveh:v:9:y:2005:i:01:p:61-95_00

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Cited by:
  1. Joerg Baten & Jan Zanden, 2008. "Book production and the onset of modern economic growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 217-235, September.
  2. Dalgaard, Carl-Johan & Strulik, Holger, 2011. "The Physiological Foundations of the Wealth of Nations," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-480, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  3. Klein Goldewijk, Geertje & Jacobs, Jan, 2013. "The relation between stature and long bone length in the Roman Empire," Research Report EEF-13002, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).
  4. Carl-Johan Dalgaard & Holger Strulik, 2006. "Subsistence – A Bio-economic Foundation of the Malthusian Equilibrium," Discussion Papers 06-17, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  5. Jörg Baten & Mikolaj Szoltysek, 2012. "The human capital of Central-Eastern and Eastern Europe in European perspective," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2012-002, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  6. Izdebski, Adam & Koloch, Grzegorz & Słoczyński, Tymon & Tycner-Wolicka, Marta, 2014. "On the Use of Palynological Data in Economic History: New Methods and an Application to Agricultural Output in Central Europe, 0–2000 AD," MPRA Paper 54582, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Jörg Baten & Mojgan Stegl & Pierre Eng, 2013. "The biological standard of living and body height in colonial and post-colonial Indonesia, 1770–2000," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 103-122, July.
  8. Stegl, Mojgan & Baten, Joerg, 2009. "Tall and shrinking Muslims, short and growing Europeans: The long-run welfare development of the Middle East, 1850-1980," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 132-148, January.
  9. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "How Prosperous were the Romans? Evidence from Diocletian`s Price Edict (301 AD)," Economics Series Working Papers 363, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  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. Birchenall, Javier A., 2007. "Economic Development and the Escape from High Mortality," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 543-568, April.
  12. Koepke, Nikola & Baten, Joerg, 2008. "Agricultural specialization and height in ancient and medieval Europe," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 127-146, April.
  13. Dalgaard, Carl-Johan & Strulik, Holger, 2007. "A Bioeconomic Foundation of the Malthusian Equilibrium: Body Size and Population Size in the Long-Run," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-373, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  14. Richard H. Steckel, 2008. "Heights and Human Welfare: Recent Developments and New Directions," NBER Working Papers 14536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Morgan Kelly & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2012. "Agricultural Output, Calories and Living Standards in England before and during The Industrial Revolution," Working Papers 201212, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
  16. Dalgaard, Carl-Johan & Strulik, Holger, 2012. "Physiology and Development: Why the West is Taller than the Rest," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-494, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  17. Adolfo Meisel R. & Margarita Vega A., 2006. "Los orígenes de la antropometría histórica y su estado actual," CUADERNOS DE HISTORIA ECONÓMICA Y EMPRESARIAL 003175, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA - ECONOMÍA REGIONAL.
  18. Kris Inwood & Les Oxley & Evan Roberts, 2008. "Physical stature and its interpretation in nineteenth century New Zealand," Working Papers in Economics 08/22, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.

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