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Did Smallpox Reduce Height? Stature and the Standard of Living in London, 1770-1873

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  • Hans-Joachim Voth
  • Timothy Leunig

Abstract

In this paper, we re-examine the effect of smallpox on the height attained by those who suffered from this disease. To this end, we analyse a dataset assembled by Floud, Wachter and Gregory on the height of recruits into the Marine Society, 1770-1873. Using both time series and cross-sectional analysis, we show that smallpox was indeed an important determinant of height: those who had suffered from smallpox were significantly shorter. This suggests that the increase in heights documented by Floud et al. may be explained not just by increased nutritional intake, but also by the eradication of smallpox.

Suggested Citation

  • Hans-Joachim Voth & Timothy Leunig, 1995. "Did Smallpox Reduce Height? Stature and the Standard of Living in London, 1770-1873," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _001, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:esohwp:_001
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    Cited by:

    1. Arora Suchit, 2012. "Understanding Aging during the Epidemiologic Transition," Working Papers 12-07, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
    2. Bodenhorn, Howard & Guinnane, Timothy W. & Mroz, Thomas A., 2017. "Sample-Selection Biases and the Industrialization Puzzle," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 77(1), pages 171-207, March.
    3. Humphries, Jane & Leunig, Timothy, 2009. "Was Dick Whittington taller than those he left behind? Anthropometric measures, migration and the quality of life in early nineteenth century London?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 120-131, January.
    4. Izdebski, Adam & Koloch, Grzegorz & Słoczyński, Tymon & Tycner, Marta, 2016. "On the use of palynological data in economic history: New methods and an application to agricultural output in Central Europe, 0–2000AD," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 17-39.
    5. N. F. R. Crafts, 1997. "Some Dimensions of the ‘Quality of Life’ During the British Industrial Revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 50(4), pages 617-639, November.
    6. Scott A. Carson, 2020. "Biological Differences between Late 19th and Early 20th Century Urban and Rural Residence," CESifo Working Paper Series 8523, CESifo.
    7. Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January.
    8. Galofré-Vilà, Gregori, 2018. "Growth and maturity: A quantitative systematic review and network analysis in anthropometric history," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 107-118.
    9. Jacobs, Jan & Tassenaar, Vincent, 2004. "Height, income, and nutrition in the Netherlands: the second half of the 19th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 181-195, June.
    10. Salam Abdus & Peter Rangazas, 2011. "Adult Nutrition and Growth," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 14(4), pages 636-649, October.
    11. Federico Varese & Meir Yaish, 1998. "Altruism:The Importance of Being Asked. The Rescue of Jews in Nazi Europe," Economics Series Working Papers 1998-W24, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    12. Jane Humphries & Tim Leunig, 2009. "Cities, market integration, and going to sea: stunting and the standard of living in early nineteenth‐century England and Wales1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 62(2), pages 458-478, May.
    13. J.Humphries & T. Leunig, 2007. "Cities, Market Integration and Going to Sea: Stunting and the standard of living in early nineteenth-century England and Wales," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _066, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    14. Howard Bodenhorn & Timothy W. Guinnane & Thomas A. Mroz, 2013. "Problems of Sample-selection Bias in the Historical Heights Literature: A Theoretical and Econometric Analysis," Working Papers 1023, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    15. Quanjer, Björn & Kok, Jan, 2019. "Homemakers and heights. Intra-household resource allocation and male stature in the Netherlands, 1860–1930," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 194-207.
    16. Adolfo Meisel-Roca. & Margarita Vega A., 2006. "Los orígenes de la antropometría histórica y su estado actual," Cuadernos de Historia Económica 18, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
    17. Philipp Ager & Casper Worm Hansen & Peter Sandholt Jensen, 2018. "Fertility and Early-Life Mortality: Evidence from Smallpox Vaccination in Sweden," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 487-521.
    18. Liam Brunt, 1999. "An Arbitrage Model in Crop Rotation in 18th Century England," Economics Series Working Papers 1999-W32, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    19. Jun, Seong Ho & Lewis, James B. & Schwekendiek, Daniel, 2017. "The biological standard of living in pre-modern Korea: Determinants of height of militia recruits during the Chosŏn dynasty," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 104-110.
    20. Aksan, Anna-Maria & Chakraborty, Shankha, 2014. "Mortality versus morbidity in the demographic transition," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 470-492.
    21. Paul A. David & Gavin Wright, "undated". "General Purpose Technologies and Surges in Productivity: Historical Reflections on the Future of the ICT Revolution," Working Papers 99026, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
    22. Howard Bodenhorn & Timothy Guinnane & Thomas Mroz, 2014. "Caveat Lector: Sample Selection in Historical Heights and the Interpretation of Early Industrializing Economies," NBER Working Papers 19955, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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