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Anthropometric evidence on economic growth, biological well-being and regional convergence in the Habsburg Monarchy, c. 1850–1910

  • John Komlos


    (Department of Economics, University of Munich, Ludwigstraße 33/IV, 80539 Munich, Germany)

We examine secular trends in biological well-being in the Habsburg Monarchy circa 1850–1910 on the basis of evidence on the physical stature of recruits disaggregated at the regional level. We find that heights stagnated generally among the 1850s birth cohorts. The secular increase in heights that lasted until the twenty-first century began among the 1860s birth cohorts. Men born in the more developed Czech and Austria areas were as tall as many populations in Western Europe, whereas the men born in the Polish/Ukrainian provinces were about as tall as the Mediterranean populations. There was a 3.3 cm gap between the heights of men living in the core versus periphery of the Monarchy, which reflects a substantial gap in biological living standards. We also consider spatial convergence of biological living standards. Heights did not converge across the different provinces of the Monarchy at all in the 1850s, diverged in the 1860s, and began to converge subsequently. Convergence was more rapid among those born in the 1880s than among the cohorts of the 1870s, even though the average rate of increase in heights was greater in the 1870s than in the 1880s. The convergence was limited to the peripheral regions (Polish/Ukrainian, Romanian, and Slovakian). No convergence was evident among the Austrian, Czech, Hungarian or Croatian areas. By the end of the period under consideration the gap between Austrian and Polish/Ukrainian heights was reduced to 1.5 cm. The evidence on heights is quite similar to the evidence on GDP growth insofar as it points to some positive elements but is by no means uniformly favorable. The Monarchy was not stagnating, or about to collapse on the eve of World War I on account of economic considerations as the Soviet Union did, but it was also not among the high-achievers of the era as the Scandinavian countries or Germany.

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Article provided by Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC) in its journal Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History.

Volume (Year): 1 (2007)
Issue (Month): 3 (October)
Pages: 211-237

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Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:1:y:2007:i:3:p:211-237
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