IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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.

Suggested Citation

  • John Komlos, 2007. "Anthropometric evidence on economic growth, biological well-being and regional convergence in the Habsburg Monarchy, c. 1850–1910," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 1(3), pages 211-237, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:1:y:2007:i:3:p:211-237

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to journal subscribers

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item


    Biological standard of living; Regional convergence; Habsburg Monarchy; Physical stature; Anthropometric history; Economic growth;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N93 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O49 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Other


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:1:y:2007:i:3:p:211-237. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.