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Health, Height, Height Shrinkage, and SES at Older Ages: Evidence from China


  • Wei Huang
  • Xiaoyan Lei
  • Geert Ridder
  • John Strauss
  • Yaohui Zhao


In this paper, we build on the literature that examines associations between height and health outcomes of the elderly. We investigate the associations of height shrinkage at older ages with socioeconomic status, finding that height shrinkage for both men and women is negatively associated with better schooling, current urban residence, and household per capita expenditures. We then investigate the relationships between pre-shrinkage height, height shrinkage, and a rich set of health outcomes of older respondents, finding that height shrinkage is positively associated with poor health outcomes across a variety of outcomes, being especially strong for cognition outcomes. (JEL I12, J14, O15, P36)

Suggested Citation

  • Wei Huang & Xiaoyan Lei & Geert Ridder & John Strauss & Yaohui Zhao, 2013. "Health, Height, Height Shrinkage, and SES at Older Ages: Evidence from China," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 86-121, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:5:y:2013:i:2:p:86-121 Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.5.2.86

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Sohn, Kitae, 2015. "The value of male height in the marriage market," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 18(C), pages 110-124.
    2. Lei, Xiaoyan & Sun, Xiaoting & Strauss, John & Zhang, Peng & Zhao, Yaohui, 2014. "Depressive symptoms and SES among the mid-aged and elderly in China: Evidence from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study national baseline," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 224-232.
    3. Kitae Sohn, 2016. "Height and Happiness in a Developing Country," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 1-23, February.
    4. Alan Fernihough & Mark E. McGovern, 2013. "A Tall Story: Characteristics, Causes, and Consequences of Stature Loss," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp429, IIIS.
    5. Osea Giuntella & Wei Han & Fabrizio Mazzonna, 2017. "Circadian Rhythms, Sleep, and Cognitive Skills: Evidence From an Unsleeping Giant," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(5), pages 1715-1742, October.
    6. Huang, Wei & Zhou, Yi, 2013. "Effects of education on cognition at older ages: Evidence from China's Great Famine," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 54-62.
    7. Sohn, Kitae, 2015. "The height premium in Indonesia," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 16(C), pages 1-15.
    8. Janet Currie & Tom Vogl, 2013. "Early-Life Health and Adult Circumstance in Developing Countries," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 5(1), pages 1-36, May.
    9. Daniel LaFave & Duncan Thomas, 2016. "Height and Cognition at Work: Labor Market Productivity in a Low Income Setting," NBER Working Papers 22290, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Tom Vogl, 2012. "Height, Skills, and Labor Market Outcomes in Mexico," NBER Working Papers 18318, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Mosca, Irene & Wright, Robert E., 2016. "Height and cognition at older ages: Irish evidence," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 98-101.
    12. Scott A. Carson, 2017. "Assessing Cumulative Net Nutrition and the Transition from 19th Century Bound to Free-Labor by Ethnic Status," CESifo Working Paper Series 6813, CESifo Group Munich.
    13. Fernihough, Alan & McGovern, Mark E., 2015. "Physical stature decline and the health status of the elderly population in England," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 16(C), pages 30-44.
    14. McGovern, Mark E., 2014. "Comparing the relationship between stature and later life health in six low and middle income countries," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 4(C), pages 128-148.
    15. Vogl, Tom S., 2014. "Height, skills, and labor market outcomes in Mexico," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 84-96.
    16. repec:pri:rpdevs:currie_vogl_ar is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Huang, Wei & Luo, Mi, 2015. "Overconfidence and Health Insurance Participation among the Elderly," IZA Discussion Papers 9481, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • P36 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Consumer Economics; Health; Education and Training; Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Poverty


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