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Height of female Americans in the 19th century and the antebellum puzzle

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  • Carson, Scott Alan
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    Abstract

    Using 19th century state prison records, this study contrasts the biological standard of living of comparable US African-American and white females during a period of relatively rapid economic development. White females were consistently taller than black females by about 1.5Â cm (0.6Â in.). Whites from Great Lakes and Plains states and black Southwestern females were the tallest. US females were tall compared to their European counterparts. The height of females began to decline in the antebellum period, possibly before that of males. The recovery of physical stature was also earlier among females than among males. This implies that the biological standard of lower-class men and women did not move in parallel during the onset of modern economic growth. It also implies that the antebellum puzzle was most likely rooted in the endogenous forces of socio-economic change rather than the exogenous changes in the disease environment.

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    Bibliographic Info

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

    Volume (Year): 9 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 2 (March)
    Pages: 157-164

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:9:y:2011:i:2:p:157-164

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

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    Keywords: Height Physical stature African-Americans Women Female Antebellum Nineteenth century US;

    References

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    1. Coelho, Philip R. P. & McGuire, Robert A., 2000. "Diets Versus Diseases: The Anthropometrics of Slave Children," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(01), pages 232-246, March.
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    13. Carson, Scott Alan, 2009. "Racial differences in body mass indices of men imprisoned in 19th Century Texas," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 121-127, March.
    14. John Komlos, 1992. "Toward an Anthropometric History of African-Americans: The Case of the Free Blacks in Antebellum Maryland," NBER Chapters, in: Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel, pages 297-329 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Baten, Jorg & Murray, John E., 2000. "Heights of Men and Women in 19th-Century Bavaria: Economic, Nutritional, and Disease Influences," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 351-369, October.
    16. Angus Deaton, 2008. "Height, Health, and Inequality: The Distribution of Adult Heights in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 468-74, May.
    17. Komlos, John & Coclanis, Peter, 1997. "On the Puzzling Cycle in the Biological Standard of Living: The Case of Antebellum Georgia," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 433-459, October.
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    Cited by:
    1. Green, Tiffany L. & Hamilton, Tod G., 2013. "Beyond black and white: Color and mortality in post-reconstruction era North Carolina," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 148-159.
    2. Scott A. Carson, 2013. "Black and White Body Mass Index Values in Developing 19th Century Nebraska," CESifo Working Paper Series 4268, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Komlos, John, 2012. "A Three-Decade “Kuhnian” History of the Antebellum Puzzle: Explaining the shrinking of the US population at the onset of modern economic growth," Discussion Papers in Economics 12758, University of Munich, Department of Economics.

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