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The Incredible Shrinking Black Woman: Implications of Health Policies


  • Janice Dias


  • Gregory Price



Black American women are shrinking in height at a faster rate than other groups, a phenomenon that has consequences for the physical health and economic well-being of black females. Relative to the cohort born from 1955 to 1974, the most recent cohort (1970–1986) of black American women and girls have lost more than half an inch (approximately 0.56) in height. Adult height is a measure of net nutrition acquired during childhood and adolescence and is correlated with a wide variety of economic and health outcomes. Simultaneously, the body mass index (BMI) among blacks has also increased at a faster rate than whites in both the periods of 1988–1994 (1.06 kg/m2) and 1999–2002. Black women and girls, in particular, experienced the greatest increase in BMI since the 1990s. Evidence that black American women are shrinking and BMI is growing highlights the need to examine the nutritional intake of black girls during childhood and adolescence; early nutritional deficiencies have persistent impact over their life course. In this policy brief, we consider several public health policy interventions that affect black girls’ nutritional intake across the life course, particularly during childhood and adolescence. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Janice Dias & Gregory Price, 2012. "The Incredible Shrinking Black Woman: Implications of Health Policies," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 381-388, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:blkpoe:v:39:y:2012:i:4:p:381-388
    DOI: 10.1007/s12114-012-9136-4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daniel L. Millimet & Rusty Tchernis & Muna Husain, 2010. "School Nutrition Programs and the Incidence of Childhood Obesity," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(3).
    2. Rachel Dunifon & Lori Kowaleski-Jones, 2001. "Associations Between Participation in the National School Lunch Program, Food Insecurity, and Child Well-Being," JCPR Working Papers 249, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
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