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How have Europeans Grown so Tall?

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  • Hatton, Timothy J.

Abstract

Increases in human stature are seen as a key indicator of improvement in the average health of populations. The literature associates stature with a variety of socioeconomic variables, and much of the focus is on the nineteenth century and on the last 50 years. In this paper I present and analyse a new dataset for the average height of adult male cohorts, from the mid-nineteenth century to 1980, in fifteen European countries. In little more than a century average height increased by 11cm--representing a dramatic improvement in health. Interestingly, there was a distinct acceleration in the period spanning the two World Wars and the Great Depression. I examine the influence of socioeconomic variables on height through the two key channels: nutrition and the disease environment. The evidence suggests that the most important single cause of increasing height was the improving disease environment as reflected by the fall in infant mortality. Rising income and education and falling family size had more modest effects. Improvements in health care are hard to identify and the effects of the welfare state spending seem to have been small.

Suggested Citation

  • Hatton, Timothy J., 2011. "How have Europeans Grown so Tall?," CEPR Discussion Papers 8490, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8490
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mariano Bosch & Carlos Bozzoli & Climent Quintana, 2009. "Infant mortality, income and adult stature in Spain," Working Papers 2009-27, FEDEA.
    2. Barrera, Albino, 1990. "The role of maternal schooling and its interaction with public health programs in child health production," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 69-91, January.
    3. Christiaensen, Luc & Alderman, Harold, 2004. "Child Malnutrition in Ethiopia: Can Maternal Knowledge Augment the Role of Income?," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(2), pages 287-312, January.
    4. Carlos Bozzoli & Angus Deaton & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2007. "Child mortality, income and adult height," Working Papers 230, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
    5. Garcia, Jaume & Quintana-Domeque, Climent, 2007. "The evolution of adult height in Europe: A brief note," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 340-349, July.
    6. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2002:92:5:725-729_6 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Steven A. Block, 2007. "Maternal nutrition knowledge versus schooling as determinants of child micronutrient status," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(2), pages 330-353, April.
    8. Cage, R A & Foster, John, 2002. "Overcrowding and Infant Mortality: A Tale of Two Cities," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 49(2), pages 129-149, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dora L. Costa, 2015. "Health and the Economy in the United States from 1750 to the Present," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(3), pages 503-570, September.
    2. de Beer, Hans, 2016. "The biological standard of living in Suriname, c. 1870–1975," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 140-154.
    3. Tang, John P., 2015. "The Engine And The Reaper: Industrialization And Mortality In Early Modern Japan," RCESR Discussion Paper Series DP15-10, Research Center for Economic and Social Risks, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    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. Lawson, Nicholas & Spears, Dean, 2016. "What doesn't kill you makes you poorer: Adult wages and early-life mortality in India," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 1-16.
    6. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:28:y:2018:i:c:p:107-118 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. José Cañabate-Cabezuelos & José M. Martínez-Carrión, 2016. "Poverty and rural height penalty in inland Spain during the nutrition transition," Documentos de Trabajo de la Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria 1604, Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria.
    8. Schneider, Eric B. & Ogasawara, Kota, 2017. "Disease and child growth in industrialising Japan: assessing instantaneous changes in growth and changes in the growth pattern, 1911-39," Economic History Working Papers 84066, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    9. Schneider, Eric B., 2017. "Fetal health stagnation: Have health conditions in utero improved in the United States and Western and Northern Europe over the past 150 years?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 18-26.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Health; Human Stature; Twentieth Century Europe;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • N24 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: 1913-

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