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Did smallpox reduce height?: stature and the standard of living in London, 1770-1873

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  • Voth, Hans-Joachim
  • Leunig, Tim

Abstract

In this paper, we re-examine the effect of smallpox on the height attained by those who suffered from this disease. To this end, we analyse a dataset assembled by Floud, Wachter and Gregory on the height of recruits into the Marine Society, 1770-1873. Using both time series and cross-sectional analysis, we show that smallpox was indeed an important determinant of height: those who had suffered from smallpox were significantly shorter. This suggests that the increase in heights documented by Floud et al. may be explained not just by increased nutritional intake, but also by the eradication of smallpox.

Suggested Citation

  • Voth, Hans-Joachim & Leunig, Tim, 1996. "Did smallpox reduce height?: stature and the standard of living in London, 1770-1873," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 497, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:497
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Stephen J. Kunitz, 1983. "Speculations on the European Mortality Decline," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 36(3), pages 349-364, August.
    3. Brinkman, Henk Jan & Drukker, J. W. & Slot, Brigitte, 1988. "Height and income: A new method for the estimation of historical national income series," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 227-264, July.
    4. Williamson,Jeffrey G., 1990. "Coping with City Growth during the British Industrial Revolution," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521364805, October.
    5. Crafts, N F R, 1987. "Cliometrics, 1971-1986: A Survey," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 2(3), pages 171-192, July.
    6. Steckel, Richard H., 1986. "A Peculiar Population: The Nutrition, Health, and Mortality of American Slaves from Childhood to Maturity," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(03), pages 721-741, September.
    7. Roderick Floud & Kenneth Wachter & Annabel Gregory, 1990. "Height, Health, and History: Nutritional Status in the United Kingdom, 1750-1980," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number flou90-1.
    8. Mandemakers C. A. & Van Zanden J. L., 1993. "The Height of Conscripts and National Income: Apparent Relations and Misconceptions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 81-97, January.
    9. Peter H. Lindert & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1983. "English Workers’Living Standards During the Industrial Revolution: A New Look," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 36(1), pages 1-25, February.
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    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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