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Statures, BMIs, and Weight: A Reassessment

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  • Scott A. Carson

Abstract

Much has been written about the modern obesity epidemic, and historical BMIs are low compared to their modern counterparts. However, interpreting BMI variation is difficult because BMIs increase when weight increases or when stature decreases, and the two have different implications for human health. An alternative measure for net current biological conditions is body weight. After controlling for height, African-American and white weights decreased throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Farmers had greater average weights than workers in other occupations. Individuals from the South had taller statures, greater BMIs, and heavier weights than workers in other US regions, indicating that even though the South had higher 19th century disease rates, it had better net nutritional conditions.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott A. Carson, 2013. "Statures, BMIs, and Weight: A Reassessment," CESifo Working Paper Series 4540, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4540
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp4540.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Floud,Roderick & Fogel,Robert W. & Harris,Bernard & Hong,Sok Chul, 2011. "The Changing Body," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521879750, December.
    2. Dana Goldman & Darius Lakdawalla & Yuhui Zheng, 2011. "Food Prices and the Dynamics of Body Weight," NBER Chapters,in: Economic Aspects of Obesity, pages 65-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    4. Robert William Fogel, 1993. "New Sources and New Techniques for the Study of Secular Trends in Nutritional Status, Health, Mortality, and the Process of Aging," NBER Historical Working Papers 0026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Zehetmayer, Matthias, 2011. "The continuation of the antebellum puzzle: stature in the US, 1847–1894," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(02), pages 313-327, August.
    6. Angus Deaton, 2008. "Height, Health, and Inequality: The Distribution of Adult Heights in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 468-474, May.
    7. Koch, Daniel, 2011. "Waaler revisited: The anthropometrics of mortality," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 106-117, January.
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    9. Ball, Kylie & Crawford, David, 2005. "Socioeconomic status and weight change in adults: a review," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(9), pages 1987-2010, May.
    10. Carson, Scott Alan, 2007. "Mexican body mass index values in the late-19th-century American West," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 37-47, March.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    anthropometrics; nineteenth century US weights; net nutrition; health;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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