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The effects on stature of poverty, family size, and birth order: British children in the 1930s

  • Timothy J. Hatton
  • Richard M. Martin

This article examines the effects of socio-economic conditions on the standardized heights and body mass index (BMI) of children in Interwar Britain, using the Boyd Orr cohort, a survey of predominantly poor families taken in 1937--9. We examine the trade-off between child quality (in the form of health outcomes) and the number of children in the family. We find that birth order and family size have negative effects on the heights of children, but not on their BMI. Household income per capita positively influences height but, even after accounting for this, the number of children in the family has a negative effect on height. This latter effect is closely associated with overcrowding and with the degree of cleanliness or hygiene in the household, which conditions exposure to factors predisposing to disease. We also analyse follow-up data, which indicates that the effects of family size on height persisted into adulthood. Copyright 2010 Oxford University Press 2009 All rights reserved, Oxford University Press.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/oep/gpp034
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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Oxford Economic Papers.

Volume (Year): 62 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 157-184

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Handle: RePEc:oup:oxecpp:v:62:y:2010:i:1:p:157-184
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  1. Thomas, D., 1995. "Like Father, Like Son, Like Mother, Like Daughter, Parental Resources and Child Height," Papers 95-01, RAND - Reprint Series.
  2. Booth, Alison L. & Kee, Hiau Joo, 2005. "Birth Order Matters: The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Educational Attainment," IZA Discussion Papers 1713, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1976. "Child Endowments, and the Quantity and Quality of Children," NBER Working Papers 0123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2005. "The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Children's Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 669-700, May.
  5. Mette Ejrnæs & Claus C. Pörtner, 2004. "Birth Order and the Intrahousehold Allocation of Time and Education," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(4), pages 1008-1019, November.
  6. Horton, Susan, 1988. "Birth Order and Child Nutritional Status: Evidence from the Philippines," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 341-54, January.
  7. Behrman, Jere R., 1988. "Nutrition, health, birth order and seasonality : Intrahousehold allocation among children in rural India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 43-62, February.
  8. Becker, Gary S & Lewis, H Gregg, 1973. "On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S279-88, Part II, .
  9. Carlos Bozzoli & Angus Deaton & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2007. "Child mortality, income and adult height," Working Papers 230, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
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