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

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  • Timothy J. Hatton
  • Richard M. Martin

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy J. Hatton & Richard M. Martin, 2010. "The effects on stature of poverty, family size, and birth order: British children in the 1930s," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(1), pages 157-184, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:oxecpp:v:62:y:2010:i:1:p:157-184
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alison Booth & Hiau Kee, 2009. "Birth order matters: the effect of family size and birth order on educational attainment," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 22(2), pages 367-397, April.
    2. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages 143-162, August.
    3. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 669-700.
    4. 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 341-354, January.
    5. 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 279-288, Part II, .
    6. Frijters, Paul & Hatton, Timothy J. & Martin, Richard M. & Shields, Michael A., 2010. "Childhood economic conditions and length of life: Evidence from the UK Boyd Orr cohort, 1937-2005," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 39-47, January.
    7. Duncan Thomas, 1994. "Like Father, like Son; Like Mother, like Daughter: Parental Resources and Child Height," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(4), pages 950-988.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Hatton and Martin - Poverty and Stature for British Children in the 1930s
      by Liam Delaney in Geary Behaviour Centre on 2010-08-11 02:15:00

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    1. repec:eme:rehizz:s0363-326820160000032005 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2016. "Healthy(?), wealthy, and wise: Birth order and adult health," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 27-45.
    3. 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.
    4. Timothy J. Hatton, 2015. "Stature and Sibship: Historical Evidence," CEH Discussion Papers 039, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    5. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:28:y:2018:i:c:p:107-118 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Sylvia Frühwirth-Schnatter & Martin Halla & Alexandra Posekany & Gerald J. Pruckner & Thomas Schober, 2014. "The Quantity and Quality of Children: A Semi-Parametric Bayesian IV Approach," Economics working papers 2014-03, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    7. Datar, Ashlesha, 2017. "The more the heavier? Family size and childhood obesity in the U.S," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 180(C), pages 143-151.
    8. Martine Mariotti, 2015. "Fathers' Employment and Sons' Stature: The Long-Run Effects of a Positive Regional Employment Shock in South Africa's Mining Industry," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63(3), pages 485-514.
    9. Alan Fernihough, 2017. "Human capital and the quantity–quality trade-off during the demographic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 35-65, March.
    10. Fernihough, Alan, 2017. "Less is More? The child quantity-quality trade-off in early 20th century England and Wales," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2017-07, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    11. Martine Mariotti, 2012. "Living Standards In South Africa's Former Homelands," CEH Discussion Papers 003, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    12. Alan Fernihough, 2011. "Human Capital and the Quantity-Quality Trade-Off during the Demographic Transition: New Evidence from Ireland," Working Papers 201113, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. Laura Valadez Martinez, 2014. "Bridging the Gap: Conceptual and Empirical Dimensions of Child Wellbeing in Rural Mexico," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 116(2), pages 567-591, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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