Adult height and childhood disease
Taller populations are generally richer populations, and taller individuals live longer and earn more, perhaps reflecting their superior cognitive abilities. Understanding the determinants of adult height has thus become a focus in understanding the relationship between health and wealth. We investigate the childhood determinants of adult height in populations, focusing on the respective roles of income and of disease. Across a range of European countries and the United States, we find a strong inverse relationship between postneonatal (one month to one year) mortality, interpreted as a measure of the disease and nutritional burden in childhood, and the mean height of those children as adults. In pooled birth-cohort data over 31 years for the United States and eleven European countries, postneonatal mortality in the year of birth accounts for more than 60 percent of the combined cross-country and cross-cohort variation in adult heights. The estimated effects are smaller but remain significant once we allow for country and birth-cohort effects. The decline in postneonatal mortality from 1950 to 1980 can account for almost all of the increase in adult height for those born in those years, and explains 20 to 30 percent of the 2 cm shortfall of 30 yearold Americans relative to 30-year old Swedes in 2000. Consistent with these findings, we develop a model of selection and stunting, in which the early life burden of nutrition and disease is not only responsible for mortality in childhood but also leaves a residue of long-term health risks for survivors, risks that express themselves in adult height, as well as in late-life disease. The model predicts that, at sufficiently high mortality levels, selection can dominate scarring, leaving a taller population of survivors. We find evidence of this effect in the poorest and highest mortality countries of the world, supplementing recent findings on the effects of the Great Chinese famine.
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Fogel,Robert William, 2004.
"The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700â€“2100,"
Cambridge University Press, number 9780521808781, November.
- Fogel,Robert William, 2004. "The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700â€“2100," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521004886, Diciembre.
- Gørgens, Tue & Meng, Xin & Vaithianathan, Rhema, 2012. "Stunting and selection effects of famine: A case study of the Great Chinese Famine," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 99-111.
- Gorgens, Tue & Meng, Xin & Vaithianathan, Rhema, 2007. "Stunting and Selection Effects of Famine: A Case Study of the Great Chinese Famine," IZA Discussion Papers 2543, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Gørgens, Tue & Meng, Xin & Vaithianathan, Rhema, 2010. "Stunting and Selection Effects of Famine: A Case Study of the Great Chinese Famine," PRIMCED Discussion Paper Series 2, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
- Gørgens, Tue & Meng, Xin & Vaithianathan, Rhema, 2010. "Stunting and Selection Effects of Famine: A Case Study of the Great Chinese Famine," CEI Working Paper Series 2010-2, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
- Franco Peracchi, 2002. "The European Community Household Panel: A review," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 63-90.
- Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fda:fdaddt:2008-25. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Carmen Arias)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.