IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Geography, insolation, and vitamin D in nineteenth century US African-American and white statures

  • Carson, Scott Alan
Registered author(s):

    Using a new source of nineteenth century US state prison records I contrast the biological living conditions of comparable African-Americans and whites. Although blacks and whites today in the US reach similar terminal statures, nineteenth century African-American statures were consistently shorter than those of whites. Greater insolation (vitamin D production) is shown to be associated with taller black and white statures and a considerable share of the stature difference between US blacks and whites was attributable to insolation and vitamin D production. Black statures increased during the antebellum period, while white statures declined. Black and white statures both decreased after the Civil War. Farmers were taller than workers in other occupations, and an alternative explanation for stature variation by social class is considered.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

    Volume (Year): 46 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 149-159

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:46:y:2009:i:1:p:149-159
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. Sunder, Marco, 2004. "The height of Tennessee convicts: another piece of the "antebellum puzzle"," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 75-86, March.
    2. Nicholas, Stephen & Steckel, Richard H., 1991. "Heights and Living Standards of English Workers During the Early Years of Industrializations, 1770–1815," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(04), pages 937-957, December.
    3. Wahl, Jenny B., 1996. "The Jurisprudence of American Slave Sales," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(01), pages 143-169, March.
    4. Metzer, Jacob, 1975. "Rational management, modern business practices, and economies of scale in the ante-bellum southern plantations," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 123-150, April.
    5. John Komlos, . "The Height and Weight of West Point Cadets: Dietary Change in Antebellum America," Articles by John Komlos 32, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
    6. 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.
    7. R. Rees & John Komlos & Ngo V. Long & Ulrich Woitek, 2003. "Optimal food allocation in a slave economy," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 21-36, 02.
    8. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
    9. Robert W. Fogel, 1994. "Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy," NBER Working Papers 4638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Komlos, John & Coclanis, Peter, 1997. "On the Puzzling Cycle in the Biological Standard of Living: The Case of Antebellum Georgia," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 433-459, October.
    11. Bishai, David & Nalubola, Ritu, 2002. "The History of Food Fortification in the United States: Its Relevance for Current Fortification Efforts in Developing Countries," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 37-53, October.
    12. John Komlos, 1992. "Toward an Anthropometric History of African-Americans: The Case of the Free Blacks in Antebellum Maryland," NBER Chapters, in: Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel, pages 297-329 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Carson, Scott Alan, 2008. "The Effect of Geography and Vitamin D on African American Stature in the Nineteenth Century: Evidence from Prison Records," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(03), pages 812-831, September.
    14. John Komlos, . "Shrinking in a Growing Economy? The Mystery of Physical Stature during the Industrial Revolution," Articles by John Komlos 7, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
    15. Peck, Maria Nyström & Lundberg, Olle, 1995. "Short stature as an effect of economic and social conditions in childhood," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 733-738, September.
    16. Steckel, Richard H., 1979. "Slave height profiles from coastwise manifests," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 363-380, October.
    17. Bodenhorn, Howard, 1999. "A Troublesome Caste: Height and Nutrition of Antebellum Virginia's Rural Free Blacks," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(04), pages 972-996, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:46:y:2009:i:1:p:149-159. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.