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: Received wisdom versus reality: height, nutrition, and urbanization in mid-nineteenth-century France


  • Laurent Heyberger

    () (UTBM, Belfort, France)


Since the pioneering study of Le Roy Ladurie and his team, the idea that mean height can be considered as a reliable indicator of the standard of living has emerged from a long debate among historians and economists. Considering height in this respect, nineteenth-century France, unlike most Western countries, did not pay an urban penalty. Thanks to a substantial set of individual data (105,324 observations), based on the draft lottery of Frenchmen born in the year 1848, we are able to prove that this “French exception” did not, in fact, exist. The larger the town, the shorter were the conscripts. Among the towns, Paris had the shortest conscripts. By combining individual data with the agricultural survey of 1852, we are able to identify those factors that compensated for this urban penalty-that were positively correlated with height: nutritional availability, the literacy rate, and life expectancy.

Suggested Citation

  • Laurent Heyberger, 2014. ": Received wisdom versus reality: height, nutrition, and urbanization in mid-nineteenth-century France," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 8(1), pages 115-140, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:8:y:2014:i:1:p:115-140

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    1. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:26:y:2017:i:c:p:126-136 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Height; France; Urbanisation; Nutrition; Anthropometrics; Biological standard of living;

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N93 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products


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