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On the Biological Standard of Living of Eighteenth-Century Americans: Taller, Richer, Healthier

  • Komlos, John

This study analyses the physical stature of runaway apprentices and military deserters based on advertisements collected from 18th-century newspapers, in order to explore the biological welfare of colonial and early-national Americans. The results indicate that heights declined somewhat at mid-century, but increased substantially thereafter. The findings are generally in keeping with trends in mortality and in economic activity. The Americans were much taller than Europeans: by the 1780s adults were as much as 6.6 cm taller than Englishmen, and at age 16 American apprentices were some 12 cm taller than the poor children of London.

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File URL: http://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/53/1/h-usa.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers in Economics with number 53.

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Date of creation: Jul 2003
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Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenec:53
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  1. Dora Costa & Richard H. Steckel, 1997. "Long-Term Trends in Health, Welfare, and Economic Growth in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Health and Welfare during Industrialization, pages 47-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Steckel, Richard H., 1979. "Slave height profiles from coastwise manifests," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 363-380, October.
  3. John Komlos, 1994. "Stature, Living Standards, and Economic Development: Essays in Anthropometric History," Books by John Komlos, Department of Economics, University of Munich, number 11, Jul-Oct.
  4. Chung, Ching-Fan & Goldberger, Arthur S, 1984. "Proportional Projections in Limited Dependent Variable Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 531-34, March.
  5. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Percentiles of Modern Height Standards for Use in Historical Research," NBER Historical Working Papers 0075, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Parsons, Donald O & Goldin, Claudia, 1989. "Parental Altruism and Self-Interest: Child Labor among Late Nineteenth-Century American Families," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 27(4), pages 637-59, October.
  7. 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.
  8. John Komlos, 1995. "The Biological Standard of Living on Three Continents: Further Essays in Anthropometric History," Books by John Komlos, Department of Economics, University of Munich, number 10, Jul-Oct.
  9. Robert W. Fogel, 1984. "Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Preliminary Findings," NBER Working Papers 1402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Andrew Chesher, 1997. "Diet Revealed?: Semiparametric Estimation of Nutrient Intake-Age Relationships," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 160(3), pages 389-428.
  11. John Komlos, . "The Secular Trend in the Biological Standard of Living in the United Kingdom, 1730-1860," Articles by John Komlos 19, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
  12. John Komlos, . "Height and Social Status in Eighteenth-Century Germany," Articles by John Komlos 27, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
  13. John Komlos & Joo Han Kim, . "Estimating Trends in Historical Heights," Articles by John Komlos 25, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
  14. Mancall, Peter C. & Weiss, Thomas, 1999. "Was Ecomomic Growth Likely in Colonial British North America?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(01), pages 17-40, March.
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