Taller - Healthier - more equal? The biological standard of living in Switzerland in the second half of the 20th century
This paper analyzes the trends in physical stature and body mass of the Swiss population born between 1955 and 1985, based on data collected in the "Living in Switzerland Survey" (Swiss Household Panel) of 2004. Aside from the time trend, we investigate the impact of educational and marital status as well as spatial effects on height and BMI. The results corroborate previous studies: average height increased during the second half of the 20th century for both women and men, better educated individuals are tallest, divorced men are shorter than married men and urban populations enjoy a height advantage over rural ones. We also compare the level and the trend in height to other postindustrial populations to identify key causes of physical growth and conclude that the quality of the health care systems and equal access to it seem to have a greater impact than other redistributive aspects of the welfare state. The relatively low level of inequality in health led to average height in Switzerland that are similar to those obtained in the Scandinavian social-democratic welfare states. Other measures such as income inequality do not have a high explanatory power for the average stature of the Swiss population.
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