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Historical trends in height, weight, and body mass: Data from U.S. Major League Baseball players, 1869-1983


  • Saint Onge, Jarron M.
  • Krueger, Patrick M.
  • Rogers, Richard G.


We employ a unique dataset of Major League Baseball (MLB) players - a select, healthy population - to examine trends in height, weight, and body mass in birth cohorts from 1869 to 1983. Over that 115-year time period, U.S. born MLB players have gained, on average, approximately 3Â in. (7.6Â cm) in height and 27.0Â lb (12.2Â kg) in weight, which has contributed a 1.6-unit increase in the body mass index. Where comparable data are available, U.S. born MLB players are about 2.0Â in. (5.1Â cm) taller and 20.0Â lb (9.1Â kg) heavier but substantially less obese than males in the general U.S. population. But both groups exhibit similar height and weight trends; the majority of height and weight gains take place in cohorts that were born prior to World War II, followed by slower gains and occasional declines in height and weight for cohorts born in 1939 and later.

Suggested Citation

  • Saint Onge, Jarron M. & Krueger, Patrick M. & Rogers, Richard G., 2008. "Historical trends in height, weight, and body mass: Data from U.S. Major League Baseball players, 1869-1983," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 482-488, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:6:y:2008:i:3:p:482-488

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Komlos, John & Baur, Marieluise, 2004. "From the tallest to (one of) the fattest: the enigmatic fate of the American population in the 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 57-74, March.
    2. Komlos, John, 1987. "The Height and Weight of West Point Cadets: Dietary Change in Antebellum America," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(04), pages 897-927, December.
    3. Robert William Fogel, 1993. "New Sources and New Techniques for the Study of Secular Trends in Nutritional Status, Health, Mortality, and the Process of Aging," NBER Historical Working Papers 0026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. William Witnauer & Richard Rogers & Jarron Saint Onge, 2007. "Major league baseball career length in the 20th century," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 26(4), pages 371-386, August.
    5. John Komlos & Benjamin E. Lauderdale, 2007. "Underperformance in Affluence: The Remarkable Relative Decline in U.S. Heights in the Second Half of the 20th Century," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 88(2), pages 283-305.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Yamamura, Eiji, 2014. "Is body mass human capital in sumo? Outcome of globalization and formation of human capital in Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 53-71.
    3. Carrieri, Vincenzo & De Paola, Maria, 2012. "Height and subjective well-being in Italy," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 289-298.
    4. Perkins, Jessica M. & Khan, Kashif T. & Smith, George Davey & Subramanian, S.V., 2011. "Patterns and trends of adult height in India in 2005-2006," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 184-193, March.


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