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Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Additional Preliminary Findings

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  • Robert W. Fogel

Abstract

This paper is an extensive revision and expansion of Working Paper No.1402. It centers on a new time series of life expectations in the U.S. since 1720, which has been constructed from the NBER/CPE pilot sample of genealogies. Native-born Americans achieved remarkably long life expectations toward the end ofthe eighteenth century but then experienced a 70-year decline. A new rise began late in the 1850s 'out it was not until 1930 that the Americans again achieved the level of life expectation that was attained c.1790. Second, time series on average adult stature of national populations in North America and Europe are used as indexes of nutritional status (not diet alone but diet net of prior claims). These series are shown to be highly correlated with the series on e10 and other measures of mortality. It is estimated that improvements in nutritional status may have accounted for as much as four-tenths of the secular decline in mortality rates, but nearly all of this effect was concentrated in the reduction of infant mortality. Additional results include an assessment of the effect of toxic substances on the mortality rates of the English peerage; an estimate of the distribution of shortfalls in English supplies of food between 1540 and 1871, which reveals that famines were due primarily to social misallocations of food rather than to large declines in supply; and adjustments of conventional estimates of U.S. per capita income for the increase in mortality, which reduce the rate of economic growth between1790 and 1860 by nearly 40 percent.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1802.

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Date of creation: Jan 1986
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1802

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  1. Lindert, Peter H., 1983. "English living standards, population growth, and Wrigley-Schofield," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 131-155, April.
  2. Landes, David S., 1950. "The Statistical Study of French Crises," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(02), pages 195-211, November.
  3. Lindert, Peter H., 1980. "English Occupations, 1670–1811," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 40(04), pages 685-712, December.
  4. Campbell, Bruce M. S., 1983. "Arable Productivity in Medieval England: Some Evidence from Norfolk," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(02), pages 379-404, June.
  5. Robert E. Gallman, 1969. "Trends in the Size Distribution of Wealth in the Nineteenth Century: Some Speculations," NBER Chapters, in: Six Papers on the Size Distribution of Wealth and Income, pages 1-30 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. repec:cup:jechis:v:44:y:1984:i:04:p:1007-1032_03 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Gallman, Robert E., 1982. "Influences on the Distribution of Landholdings in Early Colonial North Carolina," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(03), pages 549-575, September.
  8. T.h. Hollingsworth, 1977. "Mortality in the British peerage families since 1600," Population (french edition), Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED), Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED), vol. 32(1), pages 323-352.
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Cited by:
  1. Jantz, Richard L., 2003. "The anthropometric legacy of Franz Boas," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 277-284, June.
  2. Kesztenbaum, Lionel & Rosenthal, Jean-Laurent, 2011. "The health cost of living in a city: The case of France at the end of the 19th century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 207-225, April.
  3. Paavola, Jouni, 2011. "Reprint of: Sewage Pollution and Institutional and Technological Change in the United States, 1830-1915," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 70(7), pages 1289-1296, May.
  4. Godoy, Ricardo A. & Goodman, Elizabeth & Levins, Richard & Caram, Mariana & Seyfried, Craig, 2007. "Adult male height in an American colony: Puerto Rico and the USA mainland compared, 1886-1955," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 82-99, March.
  5. Haines, Michael R. & Craig, Lee A. & Weiss, Thomas, 2011. "Did African Americans experience the [`]Antebellum Puzzle'? Evidence from the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 45-55, January.
  6. Paavola, Jouni, 2010. "Sewage pollution and institutional and technological change in the United States, 1830-1915," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 69(12), pages 2517-2524, October.
  7. Michael R. Haines, 2001. "The Urban Mortality Transition in the United States, 1800-1940," NBER Historical Working Papers, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc 0134, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Cranfield, John & Inwood, Kris, 2007. "The great transformation: A long-run perspective on physical well-being in Canada," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 204-228, July.
  9. Komlos, John, 2012. "A Three-Decade “Kuhnian” History of the Antebellum Puzzle: Explaining the shrinking of the US population at the onset of modern economic growth," Discussion Papers in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics 12758, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  10. 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, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 420-430, December.
  11. Salvatore, Ricardo D., 2004. "Stature decline and recovery in a food-rich export economy: Argentina 1900-1934," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 233-255, July.
  12. Jack, William & Lewis, Maureen, 2009. "Health investments and economic growth : macroeconomic evidence and microeconomic foundations," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4877, The World Bank.
  13. Lee, Chulhee, 2008. "Health, Information, and Migration: Geographic Mobility of Union Army Veterans, 1860–1880," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(03), pages 862-899, September.
  14. Sunder, Marco, 2011. "Upward and onward: High-society American women eluded the antebellum puzzle," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 165-171, March.
  15. Federico, Giovanni, 2003. "Heights, calories and welfare: a new perspective on Italian industrialization, 1854-1913," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 1(3), pages 289-308, December.
  16. 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, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 245-258.
  17. Kai P. Willführ & Charlotte Störmer, 2013. "Reproductive behavior of landless agricultural workers, small farmers, and the economic elite in the historical Krummhörn region [East Frisia, Germany, 1720-1870]," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2013-011, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  18. Pope, Clayne, 2009. "Measuring the distribution of material well-being: U.S. trends," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 66-78, January.

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