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Secular trends in social class differences of height, weight and BMI of boys from two schools in Lisbon, Portugal (1910-2000)


  • Cardoso, Hugo F.V.
  • Caninas, Madalena


Data on the physical growth of children can provide useful information about the temporal changes in the economic conditions of the society in which they live and the extent of social inequalities within that society as well. Several studies have documented secular changes in the physical growth of children or of adult height, but seldom have the socioeconomic differences in secular trend been reported. The aim of this study is to examine differences in the secular trend of height, weight and BMI of 10-16-year-old boys enrolled in two schools of opposite socioeconomic makeup in Lisbon, Portugal, in the early and late 20th century. The samples from the upper-middle class come from the Colégio Militar, a military boarding school, and the lower-class samples come from the Casa Pia de Lisboa, a residential school for underprivileged boys. While boys from both schools show an approximate increase of 13.6Â cm in height, 13.5Â kg in weight and 2.4Â kg/m2 in BMI, the Casa Pia students were shorter and lighter than their Colégio Militar counterparts throughout the 90-year period. Social class differences in mean height, weight and BMI tend to be greater in 1910 than in 2000, but results are statistically significant for height alone. When the two periods are taken together, Colégio Militar boys differ from their Casa Pia counterparts by approximately 6.4Â cm in height, 4.8Â kg in weight and 0.4Â kg/m2 in BMI. Both samples show a considerable increase in height, weight and BMI but class differences in height, weight and BMI decreased slightly if at all, throughout the 90-year period. This suggests that socioeconomic disparities are persistent, having diminished only slightly since the early 20th century.

Suggested Citation

  • Cardoso, Hugo F.V. & Caninas, Madalena, 2010. "Secular trends in social class differences of height, weight and BMI of boys from two schools in Lisbon, Portugal (1910-2000)," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 111-120, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:8:y:2010:i:1:p:111-120

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Steckel, Richard H., 1979. "Slave height profiles from coastwise manifests," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 363-380, October.
    2. Zellner, Konrad & Jaeger, Uwe & Kromeyer-Hauschild, Katrin, 2004. "Height, weight and BMI of schoolchildren in Jena, Germany--are the secular changes levelling off?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 281-294, June.
    3. Gyenis, Gyula & Joubert, Kalman, 2004. "Socioeconomic determinants of anthropometric trends among Hungarian youth," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 321-333, June.
    4. repec:dau:papers:123456789/10510 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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.
    6. Vignerova, J. & Brabec, M. & Blaha, P., 2006. "Two centuries of growth among Czech children and youth," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 237-252, June.
    7. Cardoso, Ana Rute, 1998. "Earnings Inequality in Portugal: High and Rising?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 44(3), pages 325-343, September.
    8. Santana, Paula, 2002. "Poverty, social exclusion and health in Portugal," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 33-45, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Perelman, Julian, 2014. "Are chronic diseases related to height? Results from the Portuguese National Health Interview Survey," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 15(C), pages 56-66.
    2. Lu, Ruoran & Zeng, Xiaopeng & Duan, Jiali & Gao, Ting & Huo, Da & Zhou, Tao & Song, Yi & Deng, Ying & Guo, Xiuhua, 2016. "Secular growth trends among children in Beijing (1955–2010)," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 210-220.
    3. Zong, Xin-Nan & Li, Hui & Wu, Hua-Hong & Zhang, Ya-Qin, 2015. "Socioeconomic development and secular trend in height in China," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 258-264.


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