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A Three-Decade “Kuhnian” History of the Antebellum Puzzle: Explaining the shrinking of the US population at the onset of modern economic growth

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  • Komlos, John

Abstract

In 1979, when anthropometric history was still in its infancy, Robert Fogel and collaborators reported that the height of the US male white population began to decline quite unexpectedly around the birth cohorts of 1830. This was quite a conundrum on account of the fact that according to conventional economic theory nutritional status was not expected to diminish at the outset of modern economic growth, i.e., at a time when incomes were growing robustly. Although many hypotheses were offered, not until 1987 was the comprehensive solution to the puzzle offered that the height decline was due primarily to a decline in food consumption: agricultural productivity did not keep pace with rapid population growth and urbanization. However, it took a third of a century for a Kuhnian paradigm shift to occur until most of the participants in the debate accepted the model elucidated by Komlos in 1987.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers in Economics with number 12758.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenec:12758

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Keywords: Anthropometric history; Heights; Thomas Kuhn; Paradigm shift; USA; Antebellum Puzzle; Living Standards;

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References

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Cited by:
  1. 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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