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How have Europeans Grown so Tall?

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  • Hatton, Timothy J.

Abstract

Increases in human stature are seen as a key indicator of improvement in the average health of populations. The literature associates stature with a variety of socioeconomic variables, and much of the focus is on the nineteenth century and on the last 50 years. In this paper I present and analyse a new dataset for the average height of adult male cohorts, from the mid-nineteenth century to 1980, in fifteen European countries. In little more than a century average height increased by 11cm--representing a dramatic improvement in health. Interestingly, there was a distinct acceleration in the period spanning the two World Wars and the Great Depression. I examine the influence of socioeconomic variables on height through the two key channels: nutrition and the disease environment. The evidence suggests that the most important single cause of increasing height was the improving disease environment as reflected by the fall in infant mortality. Rising income and education and falling family size had more modest effects. Improvements in health care are hard to identify and the effects of the welfare state spending seem to have been small.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8490.

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Date of creation: Jul 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8490

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Keywords: Health; Human Stature; Twentieth Century Europe;

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  1. Cage, R A & Foster, John, 2002. "Overcrowding and Infant Mortality: A Tale of Two Cities," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 49(2), pages 129-49, May.
  2. Carlos Bozzoli & Angus Deaton & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2007. "Child mortality, income and adult height," Working Papers 230, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  3. Garcia, Jaume & Quintana-Domeque, Climent, 2007. "The evolution of adult height in Europe: A brief note," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 340-349, July.
  4. Barrera, Albino, 1990. "The role of maternal schooling and its interaction with public health programs in child health production," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 69-91, January.
  5. Mariano Bosch & Carlos Bozzoli & Climent Quintana, 2009. "Infant mortality, income and adult stature in Spain," Working Papers 2009-27, FEDEA.
  6. Steven A. Block, 2007. "Maternal nutrition knowledge versus schooling as determinants of child micronutrient status," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(2), pages 330-353, April.
  7. Christiaensen, Luc & Alderman, Harold, 2004. "Child Malnutrition in Ethiopia: Can Maternal Knowledge Augment the Role of Income?," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(2), pages 287-312, January.
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