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The North Korean standard of living during the famine

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  • Schwekendiek, Daniel

Abstract

For decades, North Korea has been one of the world's most secluded societies. Due to a lack of reliable statistics, little analytical research has been done on the well-being of those who suffer most under totalitarianism: the North Korean people. By considering height data as a sensitive indicator of the North Korean standard of living, we explain what has historically influenced the welfare of children in different regions. Using cross-sectional data from 1997 when the peak of the infamous famine coincided with extreme environmental influences, we primarily test a number of socioeconomic hypotheses that have been proposed in the literature. Of these, the public distribution system and local harvest conditions--which may reflect black and gray market activity--were found as having a positive and statistically significant effect on height outcomes. Furthermore, from a biological point of view, males and older birth cohorts seem to have suffered more during the famine of the 1990s.

Suggested Citation

  • Schwekendiek, Daniel, 2008. "The North Korean standard of living during the famine," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 596-608, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:66:y:2008:i:3:p:596-608
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Baten, Jorg & Wagner, Andrea, 2003. "Autarchy, market disintegration, and health: the mortality and nutritional crisis in Nazi Germany, 1933-1937," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 1-28, January.
    2. Marcus Noland, 2004. "Famine and Reform in North Korea," Asian Economic Papers, MIT Press, vol. 3(2), pages 1-40.
    3. Daniel Goodkind & Loraine West, 2001. "The North Korean Famine and Its Demographic Impact," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 27(2), pages 219-238.
    4. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Sunyoung Pak & Daniel Schwekendiek & Hee Kyoung Kim, 2011. "Height and living standards in North Korea, 1930s–1980s," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64(s1), pages 142-158, February.
    2. Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January.
    3. David Shim, 2010. "How Signifying Practices Constitute Food (In)security The Case of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea," GIGA Working Paper Series 122, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    4. Schwekendiek, Daniel & Pak, Sunyoung, 2009. "Recent growth of children in the two Koreas: A meta-analysis," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 109-112, March.
    5. Pak, Sunyoung, 2010. "The growth status of North Korean refugee children and adolescents from 6 to 19 years of age," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 385-395, December.

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