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Sample-Selection Biases and the Industrialization Puzzle

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  • Bodenhorn, Howard
  • Guinnane, Timothy W.
  • Mroz, Thomas A.

Abstract

Understanding long-term changes in human well-being is central to understanding the consequences of economic development. An extensive anthropometric literature purports to show that heights in the United States declined between the 1830s and the 1890s, which is when the U.S. economy modernized. Most anthropometric research contends that declining heights reflect the negative health consequences of industrialization and urbanization. This interpretation, however, relies on sources subject to selection bias. Our meta-analysis shows that the declining height during industrialization emerges primarily in selected samples. We also develop a parsimonious diagnostic test that reveals, but does not correct for, selection bias in height samples. When applied to four representative height samples, the diagnostic provides compelling evidence of selection.

Suggested Citation

  • Bodenhorn, Howard & Guinnane, Timothy W. & Mroz, Thomas A., 2017. "Sample-Selection Biases and the Industrialization Puzzle," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 77(1), pages 171-207, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:77:y:2017:i:01:p:171-207_00
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    JEL classification:

    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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