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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 US economy industrialized and urbanized. Most research argues that declining heights reflects the impact of the industrialization process. This interpretation, however, relies on sources subject to selection bias. Changes in that selection mechanism may account for the declining heights. We show that the evidentiary basis of the puzzle is not as robust as previously believed. Our meta-analysis of more than 150 studies shows that declining-heights finding emerges primarily in selected samples. Finally, we offer a parsimonious diagnostic test for revealing (but not necessarily correcting for) selection bias. The diagnostic applied to four samples that underlay the industrialization puzzle shows compelling evidence of selection.
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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(01), 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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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Matthias Blum & Christopher L. Colvin & Eoin McLaughlin, 2017. "Scarring and Selection in the Great Irish Famine," Discussion Papers in Environment and Development Economics 2017-10, University of St. Andrews, School of Geography and Sustainable Development.
    2. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:29:y:2018:i:c:p:76-87 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Matthias Blum & Alan de Bromhead, 2017. "Rise and Fall in the Third Reich: Social Mobility and Nazi Membership," Economics Working Papers 17-01, Queen's Management School, Queen's University Belfast.
    4. Jaime Reis & Nuno Palma, 2018. "Can autocracy promote literacy? Evidence from a cultural alignment success story," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 1805, Economics, The University of Manchester.
    5. Bailey, Roy E. & Hatton, Timothy J. & Inwood, Kris, 2016. "Atmospheric Pollution and Child Health in Late Nineteenth Century Britain," IZA Discussion Papers 10428, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Bokang Mpeta & Johan Fourie & Kris Inwood, 2017. "Black living standards in South Africa before democracy: New evidence from heights," Working Papers 670, Economic Research Southern Africa.
    7. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:28:y:2018:i:c:p:107-118 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Schneider, Eric B., 2018. "Sample selection biases and the historical growth pattern of children," Economic History Working Papers 87075, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    9. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:26:y:2017:i:c:p:126-136 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Nuno Palma & Jaime Reis, 2018. "Can Autocracy Promote Literacy? Evidence from a Cultural Alignment Success Story," Working Papers 0127, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

    More about this item

    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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