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Upward and onward: High-society American women eluded the antebellum puzzle

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  • Sunder, Marco
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    Abstract

    We analyze archival evidence on the physical stature of 19th-century female US passport applicants. Heights in this group increased markedly at a time when the rest of the population was becoming shorter. While diseases may have affected the physical stature of everyone in the society, the fact that the height of elite women did not decline (and even increased) suggests that their families were wealthy enough to shield them completely from rising price of nutrients.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B73DX-521NWDH-1/2/6b2bfdd5ad02b116ab08409a27f06550
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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: 165-171

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:9:y:2011:i:2:p:165-171

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

    Related research

    Keywords: Height Physical stature Biological standard of living Inequality Females Women United States;

    References

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    1. Clayne L. Pope, 1992. "Adult Mortality in America before 1900: A View from Family Histories," NBER Chapters, in: Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel, pages 267-296 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Richard H. Steckel, 2008. "Heights and Human Welfare: Recent Developments and New Directions," NBER Working Papers 14536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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.
    4. Joan Gil & Toni Mora, 2009. "The Determinants of Misreporting Weight and Height: The Role of Social Norms," Working Papers 2009-01, FEDEA.
    5. John Komlos, . "The Height and Weight of West Point Cadets: Dietary Change in Antebellum America," Articles by John Komlos 32, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
    6. Robert W. Fogel, 1986. "Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Additional Preliminary Findings," NBER Working Papers 1802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Bodenhorn, Howard, 1999. "A Troublesome Caste: Height and Nutrition of Antebellum Virginia's Rural Free Blacks," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(04), pages 972-996, December.
    8. Komlos, John, 2010. "The recent decline in the height of African-American women," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 58-66, March.
    9. John Komlos, . "Shrinking in a Growing Economy? The Mystery of Physical Stature during the Industrial Revolution," Articles by John Komlos 7, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
    10. Strauss, John & Thomas, Duncan, 1996. "Measurement and Mismeasurement of Social Indicators," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 30-34, May.
    11. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
    12. Michael R. Haines, 1989. "A State and Local Consumer Price Index for the United States in 1890," NBER Historical Working Papers 0002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Robert W. Fogel, 1984. "Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Preliminary Findings," NBER Working Papers 1402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. John Komlos, . "Access to Food and the Biological Standard of Living: Perspectives on the Nutritional Status of Native Americans," Articles by John Komlos 1, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
    15. Komlos, John, 1996. "Anomalies in Economic History: Toward a Resolution of the “Antebellum Puzzle”," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(01), pages 202-214, March.
    16. R. Rees & John Komlos & Ngo V. Long & Ulrich Woitek, 2003. "Optimal food allocation in a slave economy," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 21-36, 02.
    17. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pres91-1, octubre-d.
    18. Lang, Stefan & Sunder, Marco, 2003. "Non-parametric regression with BayesX: a flexible estimation of trends in human physical stature in 19th century America," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 77-89, January.
    19. Steckel, Richard H., 1988. "The Health and Mortality of Women and Children, 1850–1860," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(02), pages 333-345, June.
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    Cited by:
    1. 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.
    2. Yoo, Dongwoo, 2012. "Height and death in the Antebellum United States: A view through the lens of geographically weighted regression," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 43-53.
    3. Sunder, Marco, 2013. "The height gap in 19th-century America: Net-nutritional advantage of the elite increased at the onset of modern economic growth," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 245-258.

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