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The Effects on Stature of Poverty, Family Size and Birth Order: British Children in the 1930s

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  • Timothy J. Hatton
  • Richard M. Martin

Abstract

This paper examines effects of socio-economic conditions on the standardised heights and body mass index of children in Interwar Britain. It uses the Boyd Orr cohort, a survey of predominantly poor families taken in 1937-9, which provides a unique opportunity to explore the determinants of child health in the era before the welfare state. We examine the trade-off between the quality (in the form of health outcomes) and the number of children in the family at a time when genuine poverty still existed in Britain. Our results provide strong support both for negative birth order effects and negative family size effects on the heights of children. No such effects are found for the body mass index (BMI). We find that household income per capita positively influences the heights of children but, even after accounting for this, the number of children in the family still has a negative effect on height. This latter effect is closely associated with overcrowding and particularly with the degree of cleanliness or hygiene in the household, which conditions exposure to factors predisposing to disease. We also analyse evidence collected retrospectively, which indicates that the effects of childhood conditions on height persisted into adulthood.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 572.

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Date of creation: Feb 2008
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Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:572

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Keywords: child health; heights; poverty;

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  1. Mette Ejrnæs & Claus Chr. Pörtner, 2002. "Birth Order and the Intrahousehold Allocation of Time and Education," CAM Working Papers 2002-09, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Applied Microeconometrics.
  2. Becker, Gary S & Lewis, H Gregg, 1973. "On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S279-88, Part II, .
  3. Booth, Alison L & Kee, Hiau Joo, 2006. "Birth Order Matters: The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Educational Attainment," CEPR Discussion Papers 5453, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Horton, Susan, 1988. "Birth Order and Child Nutritional Status: Evidence from the Philippines," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 341-54, January.
  5. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2005. "The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Children's Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 669-700, May.
  6. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages S143-62, August.
  7. Behrman, Jere R., 1988. "Nutrition, health, birth order and seasonality : Intrahousehold allocation among children in rural India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 43-62, February.
  8. Carlos Bozzoli & Angus Deaton & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2007. "Child mortality, income and adult height," Working Papers 162, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  9. Duncan Thomas, 1994. "Like Father, like Son; Like Mother, like Daughter: Parental Resources and Child Height," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(4), pages 950-988.
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  1. Hatton and Martin - Poverty and Stature for British Children in the 1930s
    by Liam Delaney in Geary Behaviour Centre on 2010-08-10 21:15:00
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Cited by:
  1. Hatton, Timothy J. & Martin, Richard M., 2010. "Fertility decline and the heights of children in Britain, 1886-1938," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 505-519, October.
  2. Laura Valadez Martinez, 2014. "Bridging the Gap: Conceptual and Empirical Dimensions of Child Wellbeing in Rural Mexico," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 116(2), pages 567-591, April.
  3. Martine Mariotti, 2012. "Living Standards In South Africa's Former Homelands," CEH Discussion Papers 003, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  4. Alan Fernihough, 2011. "Human Capital and the Quantity-Quality Trade-Off during the Demographic Transition: New Evidence from Ireland," Working Papers 201113, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
  5. Martine Mariotti, 2012. "Father’s employment and sons’ stature: the long run effects of a positive regional employment shock in South Africa’s mining industry," Working Papers 02/2012, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

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