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Rich and slim, but relatively short Explaining the halt in the secular trend in Japan

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  • Bassino, Jean-Pascal
  • Kato, Noriko
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    Abstract

    An almost complete halt in the secular trend in stature at a relatively low level is observed in Japan since the late 1980s with average height of around 171 cm for males and 158 cm for females at age 18. Unidentified characteristics in the Japanese genetic pool or in the nutritional intake do not provide a convincing explanation. Japan is unique among OECD countries in combining contrasted health outcomes: a stagnation of height suggests a decline in biological well-being, but this picture is not consistent with high life expectancy and extremely low prevalence of infant mortality, overweight/obesity, and other pathologies. Individual data that could allow investigating the influence of socio-economic and other environmental conditions are unavailable. As a second best, we take advantage of the regional variance in average height and other indicators across the 47 Japanese prefectures and use data covering the period 1950-2005. A positive and significant influence of income and housing conditions on height is identified but the effect is fading. Caloric restraint of pregnant women, and the decrease in sleeping time observed since the 1980s appear as possible explanatory variables of the halt in the secular trend and a symptom of a decline in well-being. Public health policy implications are considered.

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    File URL: http://hermes-ir.lib.hit-u.ac.jp/rs/bitstream/10086/18767/1/wp2010-5.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University in its series CEI Working Paper Series with number 2010-5.

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    Length: 23 p.
    Date of creation: Nov 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:hit:hitcei:2010-5

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    Keywords: height; income; housing; sleep; sexual dimorphism; Japan;

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    1. Reuben Gronau & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 2006. "Time Vs. Goods: The Value Of Measuring Household Production Technologies," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 52(1), pages 1-16, 03.
    2. John Komlos & Marieluise Baur, 2003. "From the Tallest to (One of) the Fattest: The Enigmatic Fate of the American Population in the 20th Century," CESifo Working Paper Series 1028, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. John Cawley & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2006. "Beyond BMI: The Value of More Accurate Measures of Fatness and Obesity in Social Science Research," NBER Working Papers 12291, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Yamada, Tadashi & Yamada, Tetsuji & Kang, J. Moonwon, 1999. "A study of time allocation of Japanese households," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 41-55, January.
    5. Haines, Michael R. & Craig, Lee A. & Weiss, Thomas, 2003. "The Short and the Dead: Nutrition, Mortality, and the in the United States," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(02), pages 382-413, June.
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