IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberhi/0076.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Long-Term Trends in Health, Welfare, and Economic Growth in the United States

Author

Listed:
  • Dora L. Costa
  • Richard H. Steckel

Abstract

We present evidence showing that the course of economic growth and of health, as measured by stature, Body Mass Index (BMI), mortality rates, or the prevalence of chronic conditions, diverged in the nineteenth century and converged in the twentieth. To analyze the change in welfare resulting from changes in health, we estimate a Human Development Index and a Borda Ranking and we calculate Usher- adjusted incomes and the willingness to pay for a reduction in mortality risk. Prior to the Civil War the increase in income was insufficient to compensate for the decline in health, whereas improvements in health outpaced economic growth in the twentieth century. We identify numerous possible causes of the nineteenth century decline in health, including greater exposure to disease, hardship created by the Civil War, and rising inequality. Our evidence on trends in waist-hip ratio, BMI, and the prevalence of chronic conditions at older ages suggests that early life conditions may exert an impact on mortality and morbidity that is not manifest until older ages. The dramatic twentieth century improvement in early life conditions implies that cohorts who are now approaching their sixties will experience a much greater rate of increase in health and longevity than past generations.

Suggested Citation

  • Dora L. Costa & Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Long-Term Trends in Health, Welfare, and Economic Growth in the United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0076
    Note: DAE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/h0076.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Steckel, Richard H., 1988. "The Health and Mortality of Women and Children, 1850–1860," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(2), pages 333-345, June.
    2. Steckel, Richard H., 1979. "Slave height profiles from coastwise manifests," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 363-380, October.
    3. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pres91-1, june.
    4. Leen Boer & Ad Koekkoek, 1993. "Human Development Report: Fad or Fixture?," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 11(4), pages 427-438, December.
    5. Lee, Chulhee, 1997. "Socioeconomic Background, Disease, and Mortality among Union Army Recruits: Implications for Economic and Demographic History," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 27-55, January.
    6. Goldin, Claudia & Sokoloff, Kenneth, 1982. "Women, Children, and Industrialization in the Early Republic: Evidence from the Manufacturing Censuses," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(4), pages 741-774, December.
    7. Thomas J. Weiss, 1992. "U. S. Labor Force Estimates and Economic Growth, 1800-1860," NBER Chapters, in: American Economic Growth and Standards of Living before the Civil War, pages 19-78, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    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(4), pages 897-927, December.
    9. Viscusi, W Kip, 1978. "Wealth Effects and Earnings Premiums for Job Hazards," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(3), pages 408-416, August.
    10. Costa, Dora L., 1996. "Health and Labor Force Participation of Older Men, 1900–1991," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(1), pages 62-89, March.
    11. Roderick Floud & Kenneth Wachter & Annabel Gregory, 1990. "Height, Health, and History: Nutritional Status in the United Kingdom, 1750-1980," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number flou90-1, june.
    12. Bartel, Ann & Taubman, Paul, 1979. "Health and Labor Market Success: The Role of Various Diseases," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 61(1), pages 1-8, February.
    13. Behrman, Jere R. & Deolalikar, Anil B., 1988. "Health and nutrition," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 631-711, Elsevier.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Dora L. Costa, 2015. "Health and the Economy in the United States from 1750 to the Present," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(3), pages 503-570, September.
    2. Sunder, Marco, 2013. "The height gap in 19th-century America: Net-nutritional advantage of the elite increased at the onset of modern economic growth," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 245-258.
    3. Maloney, Thomas N. & Carson, Scott Alan, 2008. "Living standards in Black and White: Evidence from the heights of Ohio Prison inmates, 1829-1913," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 237-251, July.
    4. Scott A. Carson, 2016. "The Lasting Effects of Maternal Net Nutrition during US Economic Development," CESifo Working Paper Series 5827, CESifo.
    5. Scott A. Carson, 2008. "Demographic, Residential, and Socioeconomic Effects on the Distribution of 19th Century African-American Stature," CESifo Working Paper Series 2479, CESifo.
    6. Scott A. Carson, 2015. "The Weight of Inequality: Variation with Industrialization and Wealth," CESifo Working Paper Series 5629, CESifo.
    7. Sunder, Marco, 2011. "Upward and onward: High-society American women eluded the antebellum puzzle," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 165-171, March.
    8. Komlos, John & Baten, Jörg, 2003. "Looking Backward and Looking Forward: Anthropometric Research and the Development of Social Science History," Discussion Papers in Economics 59, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    9. repec:eee:labchp:v:3:y:1999:i:pc:p:3309-3416 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Zehetmayer, Matthias, 2010. "An Anthropometric History of the Postbellum US, 1847-1894," Munich Dissertations in Economics 12321, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    11. Dora Costa, 2000. "Understanding the twentieth-century decline in chronic conditions among older men," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 37(1), pages 53-72, February.
    12. Komlos, John & A’Hearn, Brian, 2017. "Hidden negative aspects of industrialization at the onset of modern economic growth in the U.S," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 43-52.
    13. Dora L. Costa, 2009. "The Health of Older Men in the Past," NBER Chapters, in: Health at Older Ages: The Causes and Consequences of Declining Disability among the Elderly, pages 21-54, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Komlos, John & Coclanis, Peter, 1997. "On the Puzzling Cycle in the Biological Standard of Living: The Case of Antebellum Georgia," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 433-459, October.
    15. Komlos, John, 2019. "Shrinking in a growing economy is not so puzzling after all," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 40-55.
    16. Carson, Scott Alan, 2011. "Was the 19th century stature-insolation relationship similar across independent samples? Evidence from soldiers and prisoners," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 199-207, April.
    17. Maria-Dolores, Ramon & Martínez Carrion, José Miguel, 2012. "The comovement between height and some economic development indicators in Spain," UMUFAE Economics Working Papers 26464, DIGITUM. Universidad de Murcia.
    18. Schultz, T. Paul, 2010. "Population and Health Policies," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Dani Rodrik & Mark Rosenzweig (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 0, pages 4785-4881, Elsevier.
    19. Hatton, Timothy J. & Martin, Richard M., 2010. "Fertility decline and the heights of children in Britain, 1886-1938," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 505-519, October.
    20. Komlos, John, 2012. "A Three-Decade “Kuhnian” History of the Antebellum Puzzle: Explaining the shrinking of the US population at the onset of modern economic growth," Discussion Papers in Economics 12758, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    21. Jørkov, Marie Louise S., 2015. "Stature in 19th and early 20th century Copenhagen. A comparative study based on skeletal remains," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 13-26.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0076. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.