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Living Standards in Black and White: Evidence from the Heights of Ohio Prison Inmates, 1829 – 1913

  • Scott A. Carson
  • Thomas N. Maloney

The use of height data to measure living standards is now a well-established method in the economic history literature. Moreover, a number of core findings in this literature are widely agreed upon. There are still some populations, places, and times, however, for which anthropometric evidence remains thin. One example is African-Americans in the Northern US in the 1800s. Here, we use new data from the state prison in Ohio to track heights of black and white men from 1829 to 1913. We corroborate the well-known mid-century height decline among white men in Ohio, found by Steckel and Haurin (1994) using National Guard data. We find that black men in Ohio were shorter than white men, throughout the century and controlling for a number of characteristics. We also find a pattern of height decline in mid-century similar to that found for white men.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1775.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1775
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  1. Howard Bodenhorn, 2002. "The Complexion Gap: The Economic Consequences of Color among Free African Americans in the Rural Antebellum South," NBER Working Papers 8957, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Roderick Floud & Kenneth Wachter & Annabel Gregory, 1990. "Height, Health, and History: Nutritional Status in the United Kingdom, 1750-1980," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number flou90-1, June.
  3. Howard Bodenhorn & Christopher S. Ruebeck, 2005. "Colorism and African American Wealth: Evidence from the Nineteenth-Century South," NBER Working Papers 11732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Steckel, Richard H., 1986. "A Peculiar Population: The Nutrition, Health, and Mortality of American Slaves from Childhood to Maturity," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(03), pages 721-741, September.
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  7. John Komlos, . "The Height and Weight of West Point Cadets: Dietary Change in Antebellum America," Articles by John Komlos 32, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
  8. Sunder, Marco & Woitek, Ulrich, 2005. "Boom, bust, and the human body: Further evidence on the relationship between height and business cycles," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 450-466, December.
  9. John Komlos, . "Shrinking in a Growing Economy? The Mystery of Physical Stature during the Industrial Revolution," Articles by John Komlos 7, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
  10. John Komlos & Marieluise Baur, 2003. "From the Tallest to (One of) the Fattest: The Enigmatic Fate of the American Population in the 20th Century," CESifo Working Paper Series 1028, CESifo Group Munich.
  11. Ulrich Woitek, 1998. "Height Cycles in the 18th and 19th Centuries," Working Papers 9811, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
  12. Lee A. Craig & Thomas Weiss, 1997. "Nutritional Status and Agricultural Surpluses in the Antebellum United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. John Komlos, . "Anomalies in Economic History: Reflections on the 'Antebellum Puzzle'," Articles by John Komlos 12, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
  14. Margo, Robert A. & Steckel, Richard H., 1983. "Heights of Native-Born Whites During the Antebellum Period," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(01), pages 167-174, March.
  15. John Komlos, 1992. "Toward an Anthropometric History of African-Americans: The Case of the Free Blacks in Antebellum Maryland," NBER Chapters, in: Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel, pages 297-329 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Clayne L. Pope, 1992. "Adult Mortality in America before 1900: A View from Family Histories," NBER Chapters, in: Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel, pages 267-296 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Richard H. Steckel, 1991. "Stature and Living Standards in the United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0024, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  19. Komlos, John & Coclanis, Peter, 1997. "On the Puzzling Cycle in the Biological Standard of Living: The Case of Antebellum Georgia," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 433-459, October.
  20. Bodenhorn, Howard, 1999. "A Troublesome Caste: Height and Nutrition of Antebellum Virginia's Rural Free Blacks," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(04), pages 972-996, December.
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  22. Sunder, Marco, 2004. "The height of Tennessee convicts: another piece of the "antebellum puzzle"," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 75-86, March.
  23. Steckel, Richard H., 1979. "Slave height profiles from coastwise manifests," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 363-380, October.
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