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The trade-off between a high and an equal biological standard of living--Evidence from Germany


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  • Hiermeyer, Martin


Following German re-unification, East Germany moved from a state-socialist to a market-based economic system. Using West Germany as a "control group", we examine how the change affected the level and the equality of the biological standard of living. We find that before unification, East Germany had a lower but somewhat more equally distributed biological standard of living than the West. After unification, East Germany rapidly caught up in terms of height but at the expense of equality. This suggests that a trade-off exists between a high and an equally distributed biological standard of living. Unlike previous research, we find that West Germany's pre-unification height advantage was smallest in towns with 5000-20,000 inhabitants and largest in cities with 20,000-100,000 inhabitants (females) or in cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants (males). Between regions, height converged both in East and West Germany, but particularly markedly among East-German males. Equality convergence, like height convergence, is significantly larger for East than for West-German males.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics & Human Biology.

Volume (Year): 6 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 (December)
Pages: 431-445

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:6:y:2008:i:3:p:431-445

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Keywords: Living standards Transformation Welfare Socialism Capitalism Height Social inequality;


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Cited by:
  1. 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.


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