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Fertility decline and the heights of children in Britain, 1886-1938

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  • Hatton, Timothy J.
  • Martin, Richard M.

Abstract

In this paper we argue that the fertility decline that began around 1880 had substantial positive effects on the health of children, as the quality-quantity trade-off would suggest. We use microdata from a unique survey from 1930s Britain to analyse the relationship at the household level between the standardised heights of children and the number of children in the family. Our results suggest that heights are influenced positively by family income per capita and negatively by the number of children or the degree of crowding in the household. The evidence suggests that family size affected the health of children through its influence on both nutrition and disease. Applying our results to long-term trends, we find that rising household income and falling family size contributed significantly to improving child health between 1886 and 1938. Between 1906 and 1938 these variables account for 40% of the increase in heights, and much of this effect is due to falling family size. We conclude that the fertility decline is a neglected source of the rapid improvement in health in the first half of the twentieth century.

Suggested Citation

  • Hatton, Timothy J. & Martin, Richard M., 2010. "Fertility decline and the heights of children in Britain, 1886-1938," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 505-519, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:47:y:2010:i:4:p:505-519
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:eme:rehizz:s0363-326820160000032005 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Timothy J. Hatton, 2015. "Stature and Sibship: Historical Evidence," CEH Discussion Papers 039, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    3. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:28:y:2018:i:c:p:107-118 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:jcecon:v:45:y:2017:i:2:p:287-303 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Eric B. Schneider, 2016. "Health, Gender and the Household: Children’s Growth in the Marcella Street Home, Boston, MA, and the Ashford School, London, UK," Research in Economic History,in: Research in Economic History, volume 32, pages 277-361 Emerald Publishing Ltd.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Fertility decline Heights of children Health in Britain;

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-

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