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