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Modern Health Standards for Peoples of the Past: Biological Conditions by Race in the American South, 1873 – 1919

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  • Scott A. Carson

Abstract

Recent modern life expectancy improvements rely heavily on medical intervention; however, before the mid-20th century, increased longevity was primarily the result of improved nutrition and less virulent disease environments. Moreover, 19th century health conditions varied by race, especially in the American South. The body mass index (BMI) reflects health conditions, and male BMIs in Texas State Prison reflected diseases associated with low BMI diseases, i.e., respiratory and infectious diseases, and tuberculosis. When able to work, Southern African-Americans in the 19th century acquired heavier BMIs during prime working ages; however, when they were no longer productive and exited the labor force, their BMIs declined, and older black males became more vulnerable to low BMI diseases.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott A. Carson, 2006. "Modern Health Standards for Peoples of the Past: Biological Conditions by Race in the American South, 1873 – 1919," CESifo Working Paper Series 1879, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1879
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    1. 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.
    2. Wahl, Jenny B., 1996. "The Jurisprudence of American Slave Sales," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(01), pages 143-169, March.
    3. Komlos, John & Baur, Marieluise, 2004. "From the tallest to (one of) the fattest: the enigmatic fate of the American population in the 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 57-74, March.
    4. Komlos, John, 1987. "The Height and Weight of West Point Cadets: Dietary Change in Antebellum America," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(04), pages 897-927, December.
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