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Fertility Decline and the Heights of Children in Britain, 1886-1938

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  • Hatton, Timothy J.

    ()
    (University of Essex)

  • Martin, Richard M.

    ()
    (University of Bristol)

Abstract

In this paper we argue that the fertility decline that began around 1880 had substantial positive effects on the health of children, as the quality-quantity trade-off would suggest. We use microdata from a unique survey from 1930s Britain to analyze the relationship between the standardized heights of children and the number of children in the family. Our results suggest that heights are influenced positively by family income per capita and negatively by the number of children or the degree of crowding in the household. The evidence suggests that family size affected the health of children through its influence on both nutrition and disease. Applying our results to long-term trends, we find that rising household income and falling family size contributed significantly to improving child health between 1886 and 1938. Between 1906 and 1938 these variables account for nearly half of the increase in heights, and much of this effect is due to falling family size. We conclude that the fertility decline is a neglected source of the rapid improvement in health in the first half of the twentieth century.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4306.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Explorations in Economic History, 2010, 47 (4), 505-519
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4306

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Keywords: health in Britain; heights of children; fertility decline;

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  1. Timothy J. Hatton & Richard M. Martin, 2010. "The effects on stature of poverty, family size, and birth order: British children in the 1930s," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(1), pages 157-184, January.
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  18. Gazeley, Ian & Newell, Andrew T., 2009. "The End of Destitution," IZA Discussion Papers 4295, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. Richard H. Steckel & Roderick Floud, 1997. "Health and Welfare during Industrialization," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number stec97-1.
  20. Hatton, Timothy J., 2010. "Infant Mortality and the Health of Survivors: Britain 1910-1950," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 7841, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  21. Paul Johnson & Stephen Nicholas, 1997. "Health and Welfare of Women in the United Kingdom, 1785-1920," NBER Chapters, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, in: Health and Welfare during Industrialization, pages 201-250 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  23. Weir, David R., 1993. "Parental Consumption Decisions and Child Health During the Early French Fertility Decline, 1790–1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(02), pages 259-274, June.
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