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A Tall Story: Characteristics, Causes, and Consequences of Stature Loss

Author

Listed:
  • Alan Fernihough

    (Institute for International Integration Studies, Trinity College Dublin)

  • Mark E. McGovern

    (Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies)

Abstract

Height is widely used as an objective measure of health status. It is commonly used in the large body of research evaluating welfare trends in historic populations and the long-run impacts of childhood environment. However, few research papers have examined the extent, causes or consequences of stature loss in aging populations. This is surprising, as many studies rely on the assumption that height is fixed in late adolescence. Using repeated observations on objectively measured data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), we document that stature loss is an important phenomenon among older individuals, and demonstrate how the use of unadjusted height will dramatically overstate health improvements for younger birth cohorts in cross sectional data. We show that there is an absence of consistent predictors of stature loss at the individual level. However, we exploit the panel element of the ELSA survey to show how deteriorating health and stature loss occur in tandem. While our analysis details the inherent bias of height measurements in older populations, we do not find that significant differences arise from the use of unadjusted height as an input in typical empirical health production function models.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Fernihough & Mark E. McGovern, 2013. "A Tall Story: Characteristics, Causes, and Consequences of Stature Loss," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp429, IIIS.
  • Handle: RePEc:iis:dispap:iiisdp429
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Evidence on Stature Loss
      by Mark McGovern in Economics and Psychology Research on 2013-06-16 20:11:00
    2. Physical Stature Decline and the Health Status of the Elderly Population in England
      by Mark McGovern in Economics, Psychology and Policy on 2014-01-30 01:59:00

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kim, Younoh, 2015. "The dynamics of health and its determinants among the elderly in developing countries," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 1-12.
    2. Chae, Minhee & Hatton, Tim & Meng, Xin, 2021. "Explaining Trends in Adult Height in China: 1950 to 1990," IZA Discussion Papers 14414, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Vinci, Linda & Floris, Joël & Koepke, Nikola & Matthes, Katarina L. & Bochud, Murielle & Bender, Nicole & Rohrmann, Sabine & Faeh, David & Staub, Kaspar, 2019. "Have Swiss adult males and females stopped growing taller? Evidence from the population-based nutrition survey menuCH, 2014/2015," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 201-210.
    4. Akachi, Yoko & Canning, David, 2015. "Inferring the economic standard of living and health from cohort height: Evidence from modern populations in developing countries," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 114-128.
    5. Cavaglia, Chiara & Etheridge, Ben, 2020. "Job polarization and the declining quality of knowledge workers: Evidence from the UK and Germany," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(C).
    6. Jinkook Lee & McGovern, Mark E. & David E. Bloom & P. Arokiasamy & Arun Risbud & Jennifer O?Brien & Varsha Kale & Peifeng Hu, 2015. "Education, Gender, and State-Level Gradients in the Health of Older Indians: Evidence from Biomarker Data," Working Paper 228841, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    7. Santiago Caballero, Carlos & Sanchez Alonso, Blanca, 2021. "The loss of human capital after the Spanish civil war," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH 31991, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
    8. Santiago-Caballero, Carlos, 2021. "The gender gap in the biological living standard in Spain. A study based on the heights of an elite migration to Mexico, 1840-1930," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C).
    9. Blum, Matthias & Colvin, Christopher L. & McLaughlin, Eoin, 2017. "Scarring and selection in the Great Irish Famine," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2017-08, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    10. Mosca, Irene & Wright, Robert E., 2016. "Height and cognition at older ages: Irish evidence," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 98-101.
    11. McGovern, Mark E., 2014. "Comparing the relationship between stature and later life health in six low and middle income countries," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 4(C), pages 128-148.
    12. Akachi, Yoko & Canning, David, 2015. "Inferring the economic standard of living and health from cohort height: Evidence from modern populations in developing countries," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 114-128.
    13. Matthias Blum & Claudia Rei, 2018. "Escaping Europe: health and human capital of Holocaust refugees1," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 1-27.
    14. Jain, Urvashi & Ma, Mingming, 2020. "Height shrinkage, health and mortality among older adults: Evidence from Indonesia," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 37(C).
    15. Marein, Brian, 2020. "Economic development in Puerto Rico after US annexation: Anthropometric evidence," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 38(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Height; Stature Loss; Early Life Conditions; Health; Aging;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts

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