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Taller - Healthier - more equal? The biological standard of living in Switzerland in the second half of the 20th century

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  • Kues, Arne Benjamin
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    Abstract

    This paper analyzes the trends in physical stature and body mass of the Swiss population born between 1955 and 1985, based on data collected in the "Living in Switzerland Survey" (Swiss Household Panel) of 2004. Aside from the time trend, we investigate the impact of educational and marital status as well as spatial effects on height and BMI. The results corroborate previous studies: average height increased during the second half of the 20th century for both women and men, better educated individuals are tallest, divorced men are shorter than married men and urban populations enjoy a height advantage over rural ones. We also compare the level and the trend in height to other postindustrial populations to identify key causes of physical growth and conclude that the quality of the health care systems and equal access to it seem to have a greater impact than other redistributive aspects of the welfare state. The relatively low level of inequality in health led to average height in Switzerland that are similar to those obtained in the Scandinavian social-democratic welfare states. Other measures such as income inequality do not have a high explanatory power for the average stature of the Swiss population.

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    Bibliographic Info

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

    Volume (Year): 8 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 1 (March)
    Pages: 67-79

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:8:y:2010:i:1:p:67-79

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622964

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    Keywords: Switzerland Stature Height Weight Body mass Anthropometrics Biological standard of living Health Swiss Household Panel;

    References

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    1. Robert E. Leu & Martin Schellhorn, 2006. "The Evolution of Income-related Health Inequalities in Switzerland Over Time," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 52(4), pages 666-690, December.
    2. Borghans, Lex & Golsteyn, Bart H.H., 2006. "Time discounting and the body mass index: Evidence from the Netherlands," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 39-61, January.
    3. Smith, Patricia K. & Bogin, Barry & Bishai, David, 2005. "Are time preference and body mass index associated?: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 259-270, July.
    4. John Komlos, 2008. "Stagnation of Heights Among Second-Generation U.S.-Born Army Personnel," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 89(2), pages 445-455.
    5. Fogel, Robert W, 1994. "Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 369-95, June.
    6. John Komlos, 1989. "Nutrition and Economic Development in the Eighteenth-Century Habsburg Monarchy: An Anthropometric History," Books by John Komlos, Department of Economics, University of Munich, number 2.
    7. Kakwani, Nanak & Wagstaff, Adam & van Doorslaer, Eddy, 1997. "Socioeconomic inequalities in health: Measurement, computation, and statistical inference," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 87-103, March.
    8. Eddy van Doorslaer & Xander Koolman, 2004. "Explaining the differences in income-related health inequalities across European countries," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(7), pages 609-628.
    9. Wagstaff, Adam & Paci, Pierella & van Doorslaer, Eddy, 1991. "On the measurement of inequalities in health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 545-557, January.
    10. Victor R. Fuchs, 1980. "Time Preference and Health: An Exploratory Study," NBER Working Papers 0539, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Heineck, Guido, 2006. "Height and weight in Germany, evidence from the German Socio-Economic Panel, 2002," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 359-382, December.
    12. 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.
    13. Sunder, Marco, 2003. "The making of giants in a welfare state: the Norwegian experience in the 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 267-276, June.
    14. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
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    Cited by:
    1. Schoch, Tobias & Staub, Kaspar & Pfister, Christian, 2012. "Social inequality and the biological standard of living: An anthropometric analysis of Swiss conscription data, 1875–1950," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 154-173.

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