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Recent Trends in Height by Gender and Ethnicity in the US in Relation to Levels of Income

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  • John Komlos

Abstract

Height trends since World War II are analyzed using the most recent NHANES survey released in 2006. After declining for about a generation, the height of adult white men and women began to increase among the birth cohorts of c. 1975-1986, i.e., those who reached adulthood within the past decade (1995-2006). The increase in their height overcame the prior downturn that lasted between ca. 1965 and 1974. The height gap between white and black men has increased by only 0.43 cm (0.17 in.) during past decade compared to the previous quarter century to reach 1.0 cm (0.39 in.). However, the height of black women has been actually declining absolutely by 1.42 cm (0.56 in.) and relative to that of white women. Black women of the most recent birth cohort are (at 162.3 cm, 63.9 in.) shorter than almost all Western-European women including Spain and Italy. As a consequence, a very considerable wedge has developed between black and white women's height of 1.95 cm (0.77 in.). The decline in their height is most likely related to the obesity epidemic caused by inadequate dietary balance. Black women in the age range 20-39 weigh some 9.5 kg (21.0 lb) more than their white counterparts. It appears that black females are experiencing a double jeopardy in the sense that both their increasing weight and the diminution of their physical stature are both substantial and are both probably associated with negative health consequences.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14635.

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Date of creation: Jan 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14635

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  1. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1994, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2008. "Happiness Inequality in the United States," CEPR Discussion Papers 6929, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," NBER Working Papers 10522, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Komlos, John & Coclanis, Peter, 1997. "On the Puzzling Cycle in the Biological Standard of Living: The Case of Antebellum Georgia," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 433-459, October.
  5. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2006. "Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 12466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Robert W. Fogel, 1994. "Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy," NBER Working Papers 4638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Komlos, John, 1998. "Shrinking in a Growing Economy? The Mystery of Physical Stature during the Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 779-802, September.
  8. Inas Rashad & Michael Grossman & Shin-Yi Chou, 2005. "The Super Size of America: An Economic Estimation of Body Mass Index and Obesity in Adults," NBER Working Papers 11584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Shin-Yi Chou & Michael Grossman & Henry Saffer, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," NBER Working Papers 9247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
  11. Komlos, John & Lauderdale, Benjamin E., 2006. "Underperformance in affluence: the remarkable relative decline in American heights in the second half of the 20th-century," Discussion Papers in Economics 1241, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  12. Rosenbaum, Paul R., 2005. "Heterogeneity and Causality: Unit Heterogeneity and Design Sensitivity in Observational Studies," The American Statistician, American Statistical Association, vol. 59, pages 147-152, May.
  13. T. Paul Schultz, 2002. "Wage Gains Associated with Height as a Form of Health Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 349-353, May.
  14. Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  16. Richard H. Steckel, 2008. "Biological Measures of the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 129-152, Winter.
  17. Komlos, John & Breitfelder, Ariane & Sunder, Marco, 2008. "The transition to Post-industrial BMI values among US children," Discussion Papers in Economics 4304, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
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Cited by:
  1. Perkins, Jessica M. & Khan, Kashif T. & Smith, George Davey & Subramanian, S.V., 2011. "Patterns and trends of adult height in India in 2005-2006," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 184-193, March.
  2. Hübler, Olaf, 2009. "The nonlinear link between height and wages in Germany, 1985-2004," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 191-199, July.
  3. Delajara, Marcelo & Rodríguez-Segura, Melissa, 2010. "Why are Mexican American boys so much taller now?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 212-222, July.

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