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Caveat Lector: Sample Selection in Historical Heights and the Interpretation of Early Industrializing Economies

  • Howard Bodenhorn
  • Timothy Guinnane
  • Thomas Mroz

Much of the research on height in historical populations relies on convenience samples. A crucial question with convenience samples is whether the sample accurately reflects the characteristics of the population; if not, then estimated parameters will be affected by sample selection bias. This paper applies a simple test for selection biased developed in Bodenhorn, Guinnane, and Mroz (2013) to several historical samples of prisoners, freed slaves, and college students. We reject the hypothesis of no selection bias in all cases. Using Roy's (1951) model of occupational choice, we interpret these findings as reflecting the economic forces that lead individuals to take the actions the led to inclusion in the sample. Our findings suggest that much of the evidence on the "industrialization puzzle" during the nineteenth century could reflect changing selection into the samples rather than changes in population heights.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19955.

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Date of creation: Mar 2014
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19955
Note: DAE
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  1. Arcaleni, Emilia, 2006. "Secular trend and regional differences in the stature of Italians, 1854-1980," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 24-38, January.
  2. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
  3. Pritchett, Jonathan B & Chamberlain, Richard M, 1993. "Selection in the Market for Slaves: New Orleans, 1830-1860," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(2), pages 461-73, May.
  4. Grubb, Farley, 1994. "The End of European Immigrant Servitude in the United States: An Economic Analysis of Market Collapse, 1772–1835," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(04), pages 794-824, December.
  5. Calomiris, Charles W. & Pritchett, Jonathan B., 2009. "Preserving Slave Families for Profit: Traders' Incentives and Pricing in the New Orleans Slave Market," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(04), pages 986-1011, December.
  6. Howard Bodenhorn & Carolyn Moehling & Gregory N. Price, 2010. "Short Criminals: Stature and Crime in Early America," NBER Working Papers 15945, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," NBER Working Papers 10522, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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.
  9. Howard Bodenhorn, 2010. "Manumission in Nineteenth Century Virginia," NBER Working Papers 15704, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Sunder, Marco, 2004. "The height of Tennessee convicts: another piece of the "antebellum puzzle"," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 75-86, March.
  11. Carolyn Moehling & Anne Piehl, 2009. "Immigration, crime, and incarceration in early twentieth-century america," Demography, Springer, vol. 46(4), pages 739-763, November.
  12. Hans-Joachim Voth & Timothy Leunig, 1996. "Did smallpox reduce height? Stature and the standard of living in London, 1770-1873," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 49(3), pages 541-560, 08.
  13. Meisel, Adolfo & Vega, Margarita, 2007. "The biological standard of living (and its convergence) in Colombia, 1870-2003: A tropical success story," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 100-122, March.
  14. Tatarek, Nancy E., 2006. "Geographical height variation among Ohio Caucasian male convicts born 1780-1849," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 222-236, June.
  15. 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.
  16. Pritchett, Jonathan B. & Freudenberger, Herman, 1992. "A Peculiar Sample: The Selection of Slaves for the New Orleans Market," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(01), pages 109-127, March.
  17. Roderick Floud, 1984. "The Heights of Europeans Since 1750: A New Source For European Economic History," NBER Working Papers 1318, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Murray, John E., 1997. "Standards of the Present for People of the Past: Height, Weight, and Mortality among Men of Amherst College, 1834–1949," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(03), pages 585-606, September.
  19. Feinstein, Charles H., 1998. "Pessimism Perpetuated: Real Wages and the Standard of Living in Britain during and after the Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 625-658, September.
  20. Mokyr, Joel & O Grada, Cormac, 1996. "Height and Health in the United Kingdom 1815-1860: Evidence from the East India Company Army," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 141-168, April.
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