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Height Cycles in the 18th and 19th Centuries

  • Ulrich Woitek

In this paper, the cyclical structure of 19th century US and 18th- 19th century European height data is analyzed. Maximum Entropy spectral analysis of the physical stature of West Point cadets, Citadel students, African Americans, and Austrian soldiers reveals cyclical structure similar to the classical business cycle: a longer cycle with a length of 7-8 years, and a shorter cycle with a length of 3-5 years. The correlation between height cycles and cycles in economic variables, such as real wages or grain prices, indicates an influence of cycles in economic activity on physical stature. The phase shift between the cycles shows that economic conditions are especially important in infancy. In part this result is due to a cumulative effect: born into a recessionary period, a child is likely to face a second and third cyclical downturn at an age when the body is again sensitive to malnutrition.

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Paper provided by Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow in its series Working Papers with number 9811.

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Date of creation: May 1998
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:gla:glaewp:9811
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  1. Bauernfeind, Walter & Woitek, Ulrich, 1996. "Agrarian Cycles in Germany 1339-1670: A Spectral Analysis of Grain Prices and Output in Nuremberg," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 459-478, October.
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  7. Katharine G. Abraham & John C. Haltiwanger, 1995. "Real Wages and the Business Cycle," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(3), pages 1215-1264, September.
  8. Komlos, John, 1987. "The Height and Weight of West Point Cadets: Dietary Change in Antebellum America," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(04), pages 897-927, December.
  9. Osborn, Denise R, 1995. "Moving Average Detrending and the Analysis of Business Cycles," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 57(4), pages 547-58, November.
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  11. Runkle, David E, 1987. "Vector Autoregressions and Reality," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 5(4), pages 437-42, October.
  12. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
  13. John Komlos, 1992. "Toward an Anthropometric History of African-Americans: The Case of the Free Blacks in Antebellum Maryland," NBER Chapters, in: Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel, pages 297-329 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. A'Hearn, Brian & Woitek, Ulrich, 2001. "More international evidence on the historical properties of business cycles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 321-346, April.
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  17. Nelson, Charles R. & Plosser, Charles I., 1982. "Trends and random walks in macroeconmic time series : Some evidence and implications," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 139-162.
  18. Harvey, A C & Jaeger, A, 1993. "Detrending, Stylized Facts and the Business Cycle," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(3), pages 231-47, July-Sept.
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  20. Komlos, John, 1998. "Shrinking in a Growing Economy? The Mystery of Physical Stature during the Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 779-802, September.
  21. R. Rees & John Komlos & Ngo V. Long & Ulrich Woitek, 2003. "Optimal food allocation in a slave economy," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 21-36, 02.
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  24. John Komlos, 1989. "Nutrition and Economic Development in the Eighteenth-Century Habsburg Monarchy: An Anthropometric History," Books by John Komlos, Department of Economics, University of Munich, number 2, Jul-Oct.
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