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Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Additional Preliminary Findings

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  • Robert W. Fogel

Abstract

This paper is an extensive revision and expansion of Working Paper No.1402. It centers on a new time series of life expectations in the U.S. since 1720, which has been constructed from the NBER/CPE pilot sample of genealogies. Native-born Americans achieved remarkably long life expectations toward the end ofthe eighteenth century but then experienced a 70-year decline. A new rise began late in the 1850s 'out it was not until 1930 that the Americans again achieved the level of life expectation that was attained c.1790. Second, time series on average adult stature of national populations in North America and Europe are used as indexes of nutritional status (not diet alone but diet net of prior claims). These series are shown to be highly correlated with the series on e10 and other measures of mortality. It is estimated that improvements in nutritional status may have accounted for as much as four-tenths of the secular decline in mortality rates, but nearly all of this effect was concentrated in the reduction of infant mortality. Additional results include an assessment of the effect of toxic substances on the mortality rates of the English peerage; an estimate of the distribution of shortfalls in English supplies of food between 1540 and 1871, which reveals that famines were due primarily to social misallocations of food rather than to large declines in supply; and adjustments of conventional estimates of U.S. per capita income for the increase in mortality, which reduce the rate of economic growth between1790 and 1860 by nearly 40 percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert W. Fogel, 1986. "Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Additional Preliminary Findings," NBER Working Papers 1802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1802
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    2. Leonardo Monteiro Monastério & Mateus Signorini, 2008. "As condições de vida dos gaúchos entre 1889-1920: uma análise antropométrica," Anais do XXXVI Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 36th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 200807202137560, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    3. Pope, Clayne, 2009. "Measuring the distribution of material well-being: U.S. trends," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 66-78, January.
    4. Ajay Mahal & Lainie Sutton, 2014. "Economic prosperity and non-communicable disease: understanding the linkages," Chapters,in: Handbook on Food, chapter 12, pages 278-324 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Lee, Chulhee, 2008. "Health, Information, and Migration: Geographic Mobility of Union Army Veterans, 1860–1880," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(03), pages 862-899, September.
    6. Haines, Michael R. & Kintner, Hallie J., 2008. "Can breast feeding help you in later life? Evidence from German military heights in the early 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 420-430, December.
    7. Godoy, Ricardo A. & Goodman, Elizabeth & Levins, Richard & Caram, Mariana & Seyfried, Craig, 2007. "Adult male height in an American colony: Puerto Rico and the USA mainland compared, 1886-1955," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 82-99, March.
    8. Adolfo Meisel-Roca. & Margarita Vega A., 2006. "Los Origenes De La Antropometria Histórica Y Su Estado Actual," Cuadernos de Historia Económica 18, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
    9. Paavola, Jouni, 2010. "Sewage pollution and institutional and technological change in the United States, 1830-1915," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(12), pages 2517-2524, October.
    10. Salvatore, Ricardo D., 2004. "Stature decline and recovery in a food-rich export economy: Argentina 1900-1934," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 233-255, July.
    11. Adolfo Meisel-Roca & Juliana Jaramillo-Echeverri & María Teresa Ramírez-Giraldo, 2018. "Más de cien años de avances en el nivel de vida: El caso de Colombia," Cuadernos de Historia Económica 46, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
    12. Kesztenbaum, Lionel & Rosenthal, Jean-Laurent, 2011. "The health cost of living in a city: The case of France at the end of the 19th century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 207-225, April.
    13. Haines, Michael R. & Craig, Lee A. & Weiss, Thomas, 2011. "Did African Americans experience the [`]Antebellum Puzzle'? Evidence from the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 45-55, January.
    14. Federico, Giovanni, 2003. "Heights, calories and welfare: a new perspective on Italian industrialization, 1854-1913," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 1(3), pages 289-308, December.
    15. Michael R. Haines, 2001. "The Urban Mortality Transition in the United States, 1800-1940," NBER Historical Working Papers 0134, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Meisel Roca Adolfo & Margarita Vega, 2005. "La estatura de la élite colombiana antes de la industrialización, 1870 -1919," Cuadernos de historia económica 002998, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA - ECONOMÍA REGIONAL.
    17. 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.
    18. repec:wfo:wstudy:46672 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. 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.
    20. Cranfield, John & Inwood, Kris, 2007. "The great transformation: A long-run perspective on physical well-being in Canada," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 204-228, July.
    21. Su, Dejun, 2009. "Occupational career and risk of mortality among US Civil War Veterans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 460-468, August.
    22. Kai P. Willführ & Charlotte Störmer, 2013. "Reproductive behavior of landless agricultural workers, small farmers, and the economic elite in the historical Krummhörn region [East Frisia, Germany, 1720-1870]," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2013-011, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    23. 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.
    24. Jantz, Richard L., 2003. "The anthropometric legacy of Franz Boas," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 277-284, June.
    25. Paavola, Jouni, 2011. "Reprint of: Sewage Pollution and Institutional and Technological Change in the United States, 1830-1915," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(7), pages 1289-1296, May.

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