Height Cycles in the 18th and 19th Centuries
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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