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Genetics of human height


  • McEvoy, Brian P.
  • Visscher, Peter M.


Height is correlated with risk to certain diseases and various socio-economic outcomes. As an easy to observe and measure trait, it has been a classic paradigm in the emergence of fundamental concepts regarding inheritance and genetics. Resemblances in height between relatives suggest that 80% of height variation is under genetic control with the rest controlled by environmental factors such as diet and disease exposure. Nearly a century ago it was recognised that many genes were likely to be involved but it is only with recent advances in technology that it has become possible to comprehensively search the human genome for DNA variants that control height. About 50 genes and regions of the genome have been associated with height to date. These begin to explain the biological basis of height, its links to disease and aid our understanding of the evolution of human height. The genes discovered so far have a very small individual effect and hundreds, maybe thousands, more of even smaller effects are still lost in the genome. Despite a successful start to height gene mapping, there remain considerable theoretical, technological, and statistical hurdles to be overcome in order to unravel its full genetic basis.

Suggested Citation

  • McEvoy, Brian P. & Visscher, Peter M., 2009. "Genetics of human height," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 294-306, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:7:y:2009:i:3:p:294-306

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. von Hinke Kessler Scholder, Stephanie & Davey Smith, George & Lawlor, Debbie A. & Propper, Carol & Windmeijer, Frank, 2013. "Child height, health and human capital: Evidence using genetic markers," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 1-22.
    2. Do, D. Phuong & Watkins, Daphne C. & Hiermeyer, Martin & Finch, Brian K., 2013. "The relationship between height and neighborhood context across racial/ethnic groups: A multi-level analysis of the 1999–2004 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 30-41.
    3. Moradi, Alexander, 2010. "Nutritional status and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa, 1950-1980," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 16-29, March.
    4. Howard Bodenhorn & Carolyn Moehling & Gregory N. Price, 2012. "Short Criminals: Stature and Crime in Early America," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(2), pages 393-419.
    5. Juliet Elu & Gregory Price, 2013. "Ethnicity as a Barrier to Childhood and Adolescent Health Capital in Tanzania: Evidence from the Wage-Height Relationship," African Development Review, African Development Bank, vol. 25(1), pages 1-13.
    6. Komlos, John, 2010. "The recent decline in the height of African-American women," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 58-66, March.
    7. Huang, Ying & van Poppel, Frans & Lumey, L.H., 2015. "Differences in height by education among 371,105 Dutch military conscripts," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 17(C), pages 202-207.
    8. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:26:y:2017:i:c:p:61-69 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Richmond, Tracy K. & Walls, Courtney E. & Subramanian, S.V., 2013. "The association of adolescent socioeconomic position and adult height: Variation across racial/ethnic groups," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 178-184.
    10. Schneider, Eric B., 2017. "Fetal health stagnation: Have health conditions in utero improved in the United States and Western and Northern Europe over the past 150 years?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 18-26.
    11. 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.
    12. Lundborg, Petter & Stenberg, Anders, 2010. "Nature, nurture and socioeconomic policy--What can we learn from molecular genetics?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 320-330, December.
    13. Singh-Manoux, Archana & Gourmelen, Julie & Ferrie, Jane & Silventoinen, Karri & Guéguen, Alice & Stringhini, Silvia & Nabi, Hermann & Kivimaki, Mika, 2010. "Trends in the association between height and socioeconomic indicators in France, 1970-2003," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 396-404, December.
    14. Akachi, Yoko & Canning, David, 2010. "Health trends in Sub-Saharan Africa: Conflicting evidence from infant mortality rates and adult heights," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 273-288, July.
    15. Schoch, Tobias & Staub, Kaspar & Pfister, Christian, 2012. "Social inequality and the biological standard of living: An anthropometric analysis of Swiss conscription data, 1875–1950," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 154-173.


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