Explaining stunting in nineteenth century France
In this paper we examine the share of the French men who exhibit stunted growth during the course of the 19th century. We use data collected on all men who were called up for possible conscription into the French army with the unit of analysis being the shares of 20 year old men in the country’s 82 administrative departments whose stature is below 1.62 meters. Our descriptive data on changes in the share of stunted men point to a dramatic decline in the percent of the population that is stunted across the century, especially in the southern part of France. Our models of the determinants of stunting are limited to two periods, one for the early and one for the later part of the century. We focus on the role of expenditures on education, the availability of health care personnel, local wages, the distribution of assets, as well as a dummy variable for Paris, and decompose changes in the share of stunted men into the effects of levels and returns to covariates. All covariates are strongly significant, although, the effect of education spending is particularly important. Living in highly urbanized and congested Paris contributed to poor health status.
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