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Childhood Mortality & Nutritional Status as Indicators of Standard of Living: Evidence from World War I Recruits in the United States

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  • Michael R. Haines
  • Richard H. Steckel

Abstract

This paper examines variations in stature and the Body Mass Index (BMI) across space for the United States in 1917/18, using published data on the measurement of approximately 890,000 recruits for the American Army for World War I. It also connects those anthropometric measurements with an index of childhood mortality estimated from the censuses of 1900 and 1910. This index is taken to be an indicator of early childhood environment for these recruits. Aggregated data were published for states and groups of counties by the Surgeon General after the war. These data are related to regional data taken primarily from the censuses of 1900 and 1910. The results indicate that early childhood mortality was a good (negative) predictor of height and the body mass index, while it is also possible to predict early childhood experience from terminal adult height. Urbanization was important, although the importance declined over time. Income apparently had little effect on health in this period.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Historical Working Papers with number 0121.

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Date of creation: Jan 2000
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Publication status: published as Haines MR; Steckel RH. 2000. "Childhood mortality and nutritional status as indicators of standard of living: evidence from World War I recruits in the United States." Jahrbuch Für Wirtschaftsgeschichte. no. 1. (January 1): 43.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0121

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Cited by:
  1. Richard H. Steckel, 2008. "Heights and Human Welfare: Recent Developments and New Directions," NBER Working Papers 14536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Haines, Michael R. & Kintner, Hallie J., 2008. "Can breast feeding help you in later life? Evidence from German military heights in the early 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 420-430, December.
  3. Cranfield, John & Inwood, Kris, 2007. "The great transformation: A long-run perspective on physical well-being in Canada," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 204-228, July.
  4. Martinez-Carrion, Jose-Miguel & Moreno-Lazaro, Javier, 2007. "Was there an urban height penalty in Spain, 1840-1913?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 144-164, March.
  5. 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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