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Nutrition and growth in Italy, 1861-1911 what macroeconomic data hide


  • Vecchi, Giovanni
  • Coppola, Michela


We investigate how nutritional status responded to economic growth in Italy during 1861-1911. By combining household-level data on food consumption with population censuses, we estimate that the incidence of undernutrition decreased by about 10-15 percent between 1881 and 1901. Consumption of calories responded elastically to income changes, although declining with the level of household income: on average, income elasticity of calories in 1901 was in the range of 0.3-0.6. Malnutrition, defined as the inadequate intake of macroand micro-nutritients, was reduced. Overall, our findings do not support the pessimists' view, ubiquitous in the Italian literature. On the contrary, the early phase of Italian industrialization was beneficial to the nutritional status of the bulk of the population, and even more so for the poorest among the poor.

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  • Vecchi, Giovanni & Coppola, Michela, 2004. "Nutrition and growth in Italy, 1861-1911 what macroeconomic data hide," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH wh043101, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
  • Handle: RePEc:cte:whrepe:wh043101

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    Cited by:

    1. Brian A'Hearn & Anthony J. Venables, 2011. "Internal Geography and External Trade: regional disparities in Italy, 1861-2011," Quaderni di storia economica (Economic History Working Papers) 12, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    2. Maria-Dolores, Ramon & Martínez Carrion, José Miguel, 2012. "The comovement between height and some economic development indicators in Spain," UMUFAE Economics Working Papers 26464, DIGITUM. Universidad de Murcia.
    3. Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January.
    4. Brian A’hearn & Franco Peracchi & Giovanni Vecchi, 2009. "Height and the normal distribution: evidence from italian military data," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 46(1), pages 1-25, February.
    5. Dutta, Indranil & Gundersen, Craig & Pattanaik, Prasanta K., 2006. "Measures of Food Insecurity at the Household Level," WIDER Working Paper Series 095, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    6. Gianni Toniolo & Giovanni Vecchi, 2007. "Italian Children at Work, 1881-1961," Giornale degli Economisti, GDE (Giornale degli Economisti e Annali di Economia), Bocconi University, vol. 66(3), pages 401-427, November.
    7. María-Dolores, Ramón & Martínez-Carrión, José Miguel, 2011. "The relationship between height and economic development in Spain, 1850-1958," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 30-44, January.
    8. Phiri, Andrew & Dube, Wisdom, 2014. "Nutrition and economic growth in South Africa: A momentum threshold autoregressive (MTAR) approach," MPRA Paper 52950, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Federica Di Battista, 2016. "Scared to be poor: Vulnerability and poverty in Great Britain at the beginning of the 20th century," HHB Working Papers Series 5, The Historical Household Budgets Project.

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