Infant disease, economic conditions at birth and adult stature in Brazil
We empirically assess the role of environmental conditions at birth, namely, infant mortality (IMR), GDP per capita and income inequality in the year of birth in explaining average adult height for cohorts born between 1950 and 1980 in 20 Brazilian states. We find that there is a strong positive correlation between GDP per capita and adult height, even after controlling for: secular changes affecting both GDP per capita and adult height, constant differences across states, income inequality and IMR in the year of birth. The drop in IMR does not appear to be a relevant factor in explaining the Brazilian increase in average height. Moreover, IMR could have had a positive impact on average height of non-white women through selection: non-white women who survived in a year of birth with high IMR appear to be taller when they reach adulthood. We also find that income inequality in the year of birth is negatively associated with the average adult height of non-white women. While recent findings for a developed country like Spain suggest that disease, not food availability, was the constraining factor of human growth, at least after 1969, in Brazil, a developing country, food availability, not disease, appears to have been the constraining factor, at least after 1950.
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