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Changes in American and British Stature Since the Mid-Eighteenth Century: A Prelimanary Report on the Usefulness of Data on Height..


  • Robert W. Fogel
  • Stanley L. Engerman
  • Roderick Floud
  • Richard H. Steckel
  • James Trussell


This paper is a progress report on the usefulness of data on physical height for the analysis of long-ten changes in the level of nutrition and health on economic, social, and demographic behavior. It is based on a set of samples covering the U.S. and several other nations over the years from 1750 to the present. The preliminary results indicate that native-born. American Revolution, but there were long periods of declining nutrition and height during the 19th century. Similar cycling has been established for England. A variety of factors, including crop mix, urbanization, occupation, intensity of labor, and immigration affected the level of height and nutrition, although the relative importance of these factors has changed over time. There is evidence that nutrition affected labor productivity. In one of the samples individuals who were one standard deviation above the mean height (holding weight per inch of height constant) were about 8% more productive than individuals one standard deviation below the mean height. Another finding is that death did not choose people at random. Analysis of data for Trinidad indicates that the annual death rate for the shortest quintile of males was more than twice as great as for the tallest quintile of males.

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  • Robert W. Fogel & Stanley L. Engerman & Roderick Floud & Richard H. Steckel & James Trussell, 1982. "Changes in American and British Stature Since the Mid-Eighteenth Century: A Prelimanary Report on the Usefulness of Data on Height..," NBER Working Papers 0890, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0890
    Note: DAE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bliss, Christopher & Stern, Nicholas, 1978. "Productivity, wages and nutrition : Part I: the theory," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(4), pages 331-362, December.
    2. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1976. "The Efficiency Wage Hypothesis, Surplus Labour, and the Distribution of Income in L.D.C.s," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(2), pages 185-207, July.
    3. Schaefer, Donald F & Schmitz, Mark D, 1979. "The Relative Efficiency of Slave Agriculture: A Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(1), pages 208-212, March.
    4. D. W. Jorgenson & Z. Griliches, 1967. "The Explanation of Productivity Change," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(3), pages 249-283.
    5. Blaug, Mark, 1964. "The Poor Law Report Reexamined," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(02), pages 229-245, June.
    6. Freudenberger, Herman & Cummins, Gaylord, 1976. "Health, work, and leisure before the industrial revolution," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 1-12, January.
    7. Richard R. Nelson & Edmond S. Phelps, 1965. "Investment in Humans, Technological Diffusion and Economic Growth," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 189, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    8. Michael Grossman, 1972. "The Demand for Health: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gros72-1.
    9. Steckel, Richard H., 1978. "The Economics of U.S. Slave and Southern White Fertility," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 38(01), pages 289-291, March.
    10. Johnston, Bruce F, 1977. "Food, Health, and Population in Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 879-907, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. James Trussell & Kenneth W. Wachter, 1984. "Estimating the Covariates of Historical Heights," NBER Working Papers 1455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. 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.

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