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Selective Mortality or Growth after Childhood? What Really is Key to Understand the Puzzlingly Tall Adult Heights in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Alexander Moradi

Sub-Sahara African populations are tall relative to the extremely adverse disease environment and their low incomes. Selective mortality, which removes shorter individuals leaving taller individuals in the population, was proposed as an explanation. From heights of surviving and non-surviving children in Gambia, we estimate the size of the survivorship bias and find it to be too small to account for the tall adult heights observed in sub-Saharan Africa. We propose instead a different yet widely ignored explanation: African populations attain a tall adult stature, because they can make up a significant amount of the growth shortfall after age 5. This pattern is in striking contrast to other developing countries. Moreover, mortality rates are relatively low after age 5 adding further doubts about selective mortality.

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Paper provided by Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford in its series CSAE Working Paper Series with number 2010-17.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2010-17
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  1. Rosenzweig, Mark R, 1986. "Birth Spacing and Sibling Inequality: Asymmetric Information within the Family," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 27(1), pages 55-76, February.
  2. Carlos Bozzoli & Angus Deaton & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2008. "Adult height and childhood disease," Working Papers 1119, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  3. Moradi, Alexander, 2009. "Towards an Objective Account of Nutrition and Health in Colonial Kenya: A Study of Stature in African Army Recruits and Civilians, 1880–1980," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(03), pages 719-754, September.
  4. Akachi, Yoko & Canning, David, 2010. "Health trends in Sub-Saharan Africa: Conflicting evidence from infant mortality rates and adult heights," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 273-288, July.
  5. Rouanet, Léa & Cogneau, Denis, 2011. "Living Conditions in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Western Africa 1925-1985: What do Survey Data on Height Stature tell us?," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/4300, Paris Dauphine University.
  6. Alexander Moradi, 2006. "Nutritional status and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa, 1950-1980," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-046, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  7. McEvoy, Brian P. & Visscher, Peter M., 2009. "Genetics of human height," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 294-306, December.
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