Economics and Human Biology

Published by Elsevier
Online ISSN: 1570-677X
Publications
Article
We use human-skeleton samples to estimate the height of adults living in Anatolia during the Neolithic period. We also report the results of surveys taken in the 20th century on the height of the Turkish population. Neolithic and the Chalcolithic (5000-3000 B.C.) male heights are estimated as 170.9 cm and 165.0 cm, respectively. Pronounced increases were observed for both sexes between the Chalcolithic and Iron (1000-580 B.C.) periods and sharp decreases among both males and females in the Hellenistic-Roman period (333 B.C. to 395 A.D.). Moreover, recovery to the Iron Age levels was achieved in the Anatolian Medieval period (395-1453 A.D.) for both sexes (169.4 cm for males and 158.0 cm for females). In 1884 the mean height of men was 162.2 cm and by the beginning of the 1930s it increased to 166.3 cm. In the first nationwide survey in 1937 males mean height was 165.3 cm, and females was 152.3 cm, where today current heights are 174.0 cm and 158.9 cm, respectively.
 
Article
Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we provide evidence that young adults respond to crisis-induced depression by exercising less and having breakfast less often. Exogenous variation in the crisis-induced depression is obtained through a unique event in our sample period - the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We compare those who were interviewed just before and just after 9/11 and find a significant and sharp increase in the symptoms of depression. We also provide evidence that this increase is not a September effect, but an effect of the external traumatic event.
 
Article
This paper examines the impact of parental investments on the development of cognitive, mental and emotional skills during childhood using data from a longitudinal study, the Mannheim Study of Children at Risk, starting at birth. Our work offers three important innovations. First, we use reliable measures of the child's cognitive, mental and emotional skills as well as accurate measures of parental investments. The observed investments include parental health behaviour, playing and talking with the child, play materials, leisure activities and others. Second, we estimate latent factor models to account for unobserved characteristics of children. Third, we examine the skill development for girls and boys separately, as well as for children who were born with either organic or psychosocial risk. We find a decreasing impact of parental investments on cognitive and mental skills over time, while emotional skills seem to be unaffected by parental investments in childhood. Thus, inequality at birth persists during childhood. Since families are the main sources of education during the first years of life, our results have important implications for the quality of the parent-child relationship. Improving maternal health during pregnancy and parental investments in infancy can yield large benefits for cognitive and mental development later in childhood.
 
Cohort mothers
Variables measured in infancy and age 16 years that were tested for an association with body composition outcomes at age 16 years in the urban South African Birth to Twenty cohort.
Article
Despite the strongly established link between socio-economic status (SES) and health across most stages of the life-course, the evidence for a socio-economic gradient in adolescent health outcomes is less consistent. This paper examines associations between household, school, and neighbourhood SES measures with body composition outcomes in 16 year old South African Black urban adolescents from the 1990 born Birth to Twenty (Bt20) cohort. Multivariable regression analyses were applied to data from a sub-sample of the Bt20 cohort (n=346, 53% male) with measures taken at birth and 16 years of age to establish socio-economic, biological, and demographic predictors of fat mass, lean mass, and body mass index (BMI). Results were compared with earlier published evidence of health inequality at ages 9-10 years in Bt20. Consistent predictors of higher fat mass and BMI in fully adjusted models were being female, born post term, having a mother with post secondary school education, and having an obese mother. Most measures of SES were only weakly associated with body composition, with an inconsistent direction of association. This is in contrast to earlier findings with Bt20 9-10 year olds where SES inequalities in body composition were observed. Findings suggest targeting obesity interventions at females in households where a mother has a high BMI.
 
Article
To evaluate the relationship between community well-being based on an index of marginalization and growth status of indigenous rural school children in Oaxaca. Heights and weights of a cross-sectional sample of 11,454 children, 6-14 years, from schools for indigenous rural children (escuelas albergue) in 158 municipios in Oaxaca were measured in 2007. Tertiles of an index of marginalization were used to classify the 158 municipios into three categories of community well-being: lowest (highest marginalization), low, and moderate (lowest marginalization). Multivariate analysis of covariance, controlling for age, relative isolation and population size, was used to compare body size of children by category of community well-being. Contributions of marginalization, isolation and population size to variation in body size were estimated with sex-specific linear regression. Children from municipios lowest in well-being were shorter and lighter than children from municipios low and moderate in well-being. Marginalization and relative isolation accounted for 23% (boys) and 21% (girls) of the variance in height and for 21% of the variance in weight of girls. Marginalization was the predictor of weight in boys (23%). Community well-being was reflected in the growth status of rural indigenous school children. Compromised growth status was consistent with poor health and nutritional conditions that were and are characteristic of rural areas in the state of Oaxaca.
 
Article
A sample of 237,782 individual observations was obtained in four areas of France: rural Alsace, urban Alsace, Limousin, and Brie (Ile-de-France). Trends in the biological standard of living of conscripts born in these regions between 1780 and 1920 fit well with the recently estimated trends for other parts of Europe. While heights were relatively low, they did not decline much preceding the Revolution in 1789. During the first half of the 19th Century heights varied considerably both spatially and longitudinally, indicating the contrasting effects of modernization among the four areas. Conscripts from the least productive agricultural area, Limousin, were the shortest. Heights in Alsace remained essentially unchanged during the first half of the 19th Century, but those in Brie increased after 1820 and those in Limousin after 1840. The positive trend became more general after 1870, though Brie alone showed the considerable negative impact of the agricultural depression of the last quarter of the 19th Century. Heights diverged until 1850 and converged thereafter. In Limousin, the annual height of conscripts is positively correlated with the weight of cattle. By the early decades of the 20th Century, a marked, long-term increase in anthropometric growth had occurred in these four regions, as elsewhere in Europe. The regional estimates correspond well to the national trends estimated by Komlos and Weir except that they show the great local variation in height until the turn of the 20th Century.
 
Article
To more completely answer questions regarding health in the past, social scientists are utilizing previously underutilized data sources. This study focuses on one such source: penitentiary records, in order to examine geographical variation in height from a sample of 2554 male Caucasian convicts aged 23-45 years. Data collected include height, age, ancestry, nationality, and year and place of birth. Birth places were divided into five geographical areas corresponding roughly to the United States census geography divisions. Average stature for this sample was 68.4+/-2.5 in. (173.7+/-6.4 cm). Regression analyses on height, birth cohort, ancestry, nationality, and place of birth indicate significant but small differences in height across geographical areas. No significant differences were found due to birth cohort.
 
Article
This paper proposes a benchmark for comparing SES gradients across countries, based on gross domestic product apportioned to members of differing wealth categories within countries. Using this approach, we estimate absolute wealth in 360 populations in 36 developing countries and model its relationship with overweight (BMI≥25) among non-pregnant women ages 18-49. A simple model based on absolute wealth alone strongly predicts odds of overweight (R(2)=0.59), a relationship that holds both between countries and between different groups in the same country (10 populations for each of 36 countries). Moreover, world region modifies this relationship, accounting for an additional 22% of variance (R(2)=0.81). This allows us to extract a basic pattern: rising rates of overweight in lower and middle income countries closely track increasing economic resources, and the shape of that gradient differs by region in systematic ways.
 
Article
Using information from passports, we show that average height of Jewish men in the German Principality of Salm in 1802-1807 was about 155.4 cm, and thus well below the contemporary European average.
 
Article
This paper scrutinizes the development of heights in Peru from the early republican period to the end of the guano era (1820-1880). Studying heights of prisoners from the Lima penitentiary, we find that those of prisoners from the lower classes stagnated throughout the period. We argue that the presence of such a valuable export as guano had no positive effects on the standard of living of the middle and lower classes, not even in Lima, where most of the benefits from guano exports were concentrated. After controlling for ethnic and occupational differences throughout the period under consideration, we find no statistically significant regional disparities in living standards. Moreover, we find that ethnic differences were as pronounced during that time as they would have been if no political change had happened, and that they remained unchanged throughout the entire century. In addition, this study is the first to present data on 19th-century Peruvian women.
 
Article
The use of height data to measure living standards is now a well-established method in the economic history literature. Moreover, a number of core findings are widely agreed upon. There are still some populations, places, and times, however, for which anthropometric evidence remains limited. One such example is 19th century African-Americans in the Northern US. Here, we use new data from the Ohio state prison to track heights of Black and White men incarcerated between 1829 and 1913. We corroborate the well-known mid-century height decline among White men. We find that Black men were shorter than White men, throughout the century controlling for a number of characteristics. We also find a pattern of height decline among Black men in mid-century similar to that found for White men.
 
Article
In 1835, Edouard Mallet published a notable but today nearly forgotten study of the average height of Genevan conscripts. His individual data included 3 029 conscripts born between 1805 and 1814, examined and measured between 1826 and 1835. Mallet’s work was only the third auxological study to be based on a large sample of individual conscript data, the other two being those of Louis-René Villermé and Adolphe Quetelet, but as far as we know Mallet's was the first to note the law of normal distribution. Like Villermé and Quetelet, Mallet explained urban/rural and international differences in average height strictly in terms of environmental and economic determinants. In the recent past, references to Mallet’s work have been rare, and limited to citations of his computed averages. We postulate that Mallet and his study deserve greater consideration for their contribution to the field of anthropometric history than they have yet received.
 
Article
We explore whether there was an urban height penalty in Spain during the period of early industrialization from 1840 to 1913, using data from Spain's Southeastern coast and from Castile-Leon. Our results indicate that in the Mediterranean Coast of Southeastern Spain urban heights were well above rural ones for most of the period considered. In Castile-Leon, however, urban and rural heights were about the same until 1870 but urban heights were intermittently above rural ones thereafter. Hence, in Spain urban heights were not always below rural ones in stark contrast to the pattern obtained in other parts of Europe and North America.
 
Height of conscripts and the index of profitability of small farms (1872 = 100) in the Kingdom of Poland 18451892. Source: Kopczyn´skiKopczyn´ski (2006).
Galicia and the Kingdom of Poland in 1913. A comparison of yields, schooling and transport facilities (Kingdom of Poland = 100). Source: GUS (2003), pp. 228, 232; GUS (2006), pp. 215-217, 252-253.
Article
This paper examines changes in the biological well-being in the Kingdom of Poland on the basis of data concerning the physical height of conscripts drafted into the Russian army between the 1860s and 1913. The rise in the average height began with the cohorts born in the mid-1860s and lasted until the mid-1880s. The height increment was 1.9 cm. In the birth cohorts of 1882-1892 the mean height stagnated as a result of the agrarian crisis. In Galicia the increase in height of conscripts began also with the cohorts born in the 1860s and lasted uninterruptedly until 1890. The persistence of the trend in the 1880s was due to the development of animal husbandry after the closure of the border against imported cattle in 1882 and the more balanced pattern of modernization than in the Kingdom of Poland.
 
Distribution of heights (1837-1948) several periods by birth year. (a) Distribution of heights by year of birth, 1837-1865. (b) Distribution of heights by year of birth, 1866-1885. (c) Distribution of heights by year of birth, 1886-1915. (d) Distribution of heights by year of birth, 1916-1994.
Height accumulated generalized impulse-response functions.
Height accumulated generalized impulse-response functions.
Normalized Long-run cointegration relationships among height and their determinants by applying Johansen cointegration tests.
Long-run relationship among Height and their determinants.
Article
We investigate the relationship between height and some economic-development indicators in modern Spain by means of a recently constructed times series of data on conscripts. We estimate a Vector Autoregressive Equilibrium Correction Model (VECqM) to quantify the height and GDP per capita response to various living-standard indicators. We observe that conditions that perpetuate an elevated level of sickness and mortality and that raise the relative price of consumption goods tend to impede human growth, as reflected in a decline in average adult height, whereas factors that promote the purchase of health services and that help to open up the economy to international trade and ideas have tended to have an opposite effect from the 1850s onward. Our results also indicate that neither the level of per capita GDP nor its growth rate has a unidirectional relation to various measures of living standards, chiefly adult stature. Instead, our findings suggest that there may be behavioral factors (e.g., emphasis on health services), political factors (e.g., degree of openness), and economic factors (e.g., relative consumer costs to GDP deflator) whose affects may have been influenced the level of GDP, over the sample period.
 
Article
This paper offers new evidence on human stature in south China during the second half of the 19th century and early part of the 20th. It is based on the records kept by the Government of Canada of 97,123 Chinese immigrants who were required to pay an entry tax between 1885 and 1949. While the study population included both sexes and all ages from infancy to old age, it was largely male, with most ages falling between 12 and 50. The data reveal an increase of over 4cm in the adult heights of both sexes between 1850 and 1930. They also indicate an upward trend of over 5cm in the heights of adolescent males. The mean heights of male immigrants fall in the lower range of those reported in other studies of stature in south China. The rising trends contrast with a pattern of stagnation and decline reported in other recent findings but are consistent with other recent evidence of increasing economic growth, real wages, and life expectancy in south China during this period. One likely cause of improved well-being is the influence of the migrants' remittances on socioeconomic change in south China.
 
Article
The height of Italian conscripts was increasing throughout the second half of the 19th century due primarily to an increases in food intake, but also to an improvement in sanitary conditions, and diffusion of primary schooling. The increase in food intake reflects a growth in agricultural production, contrary to the standard series of national accounts. We infer from an improved estimate of agricultural output, and from the increases in physical stature that the timing of the onset of modern economic growth in Italy was substantially different from the conventional Gerschenkronian perspective.
 
Article
We present 127 years of data on the physical stature of military conscripts born in Italy during 1854-1980, as well as an analysis of regional variations in height (for birth cohorts born during 1927-1980). The height of young men has increased in all regions of Italy. The secular trend and the regional changes in stature are correlated with economic growth and a general improvement of living conditions. This is suggested by the relationship between height and various socio-economic indicators. A comparison of the 1927 birth cohort with the 1980 birth cohort shows that the mean heights for populations in Italy's southern areas, which were shorter than the national average in 1927, underwent the largest increases. In recent years, mean height has been gradually approaching an upper bound for all regions in Italy, with the exception of some central and southern regions. A multiple regression analysis evaluates the impact of living conditions on the convergence of regional heights.
 
Article
We employ a unique dataset of Major League Baseball (MLB) players - a select, healthy population - to examine trends in height, weight, and body mass in birth cohorts from 1869 to 1983. Over that 115-year time period, U.S. born MLB players have gained, on average, approximately 3 in. (7.6 cm) in height and 27.0 lb (12.2 kg) in weight, which has contributed a 1.6-unit increase in the body mass index. Where comparable data are available, U.S. born MLB players are about 2.0 in. (5.1cm) taller and 20.0 lb (9.1 kg) heavier but substantially less obese than males in the general U.S. population. But both groups exhibit similar height and weight trends; the majority of height and weight gains take place in cohorts that were born prior to World War II, followed by slower gains and occasional declines in height and weight for cohorts born in 1939 and later.
 
Article
The secular change in the biological standard of living of the Mexican population between 1870 and 1950 is examined based on evidence on the physical stature from military and passport records. While Mexico industrialized and experienced rapid economic growth during this period, there was only a modest overall improvement in the height, health and nutritional status of the Mexican population. The average Mexican born in the 1940s was not only slightly taller than its compatriot of the 1870s. There were, however, considerable social differences: the Mexican upper class was markedly taller than the working class and the gap increased prior to the revolution. Economic growth with systemic inequality largely accounts for such a pattern.
 
Article
During the 20th century, the evolution of the biological standard of living in Colombia was a tropical success story from the point of view of the secular increase in height as well as the reduction of inequality. During the period 1905-1985 the average height of females and males increased by nearly 9 cm on the basis of 9 million records examined from National Identification Cards. We also study the evolution of height of Colombians on the basis of passport records. The elite group of passport holders was much taller than average, and remained stable for the birth cohorts of 1870-1919. In the early 20th century the height of passport recipients was 168.7 cm (men) and 158 cm (women) compared with 162 cm and 150 cm for heights in the national ID cards. The results also show that Colombians experienced significant regional and intrapersonal convergence in height.
 
Article
We analyze the first representative series of individual measurements of the height of Swiss conscripts for the years 1875-1950. We find that average height followed a general upward time trend, but the economic downturn in the 1880s slowed down the increase in rural average-heights while the economic crisis subsequent to World War I had only a minor effect. Moreover, social-class affiliation was the most important determinant of differences in the biological standard of living, with class and regional disparities remaining constant, for the most part, during the observation period. Lower-class individuals' ability to overcome economic stress was limited, with the result that their biological standard of living, as reflected in the cyclicality of deviations from average height, was likely to be affected by cycles in economic activity.
 
Article
The secular trend of perinatal mortality in Utrecht between 1880 and 1940 and its causes are examined in this study, based on patient records of two maternity clinics, those of the city's academic hospital, and of its outpatient clinic. The sample includes 17,111 deliveries. Over the period the proportion of births in the city occurring in the two institutions rose from 3 to 90%. The perinatal mortality rate in the hospital declined and then rose slightly at the end of the 19th century, but remained constant, even if cyclical, thereafter in both the hospital and the outpatient clinic. Rates differed substantially between the two maternity services. Logistic regression analysis reveals a cluster of factors related to perinatal death. Low birth weight had a powerful association with perinatal mortality in both samples. Most of the other factors associated with perinatal mortality were related to the health of the patients, to obstetric problems related to deliveries, and to infant sex and maternal age. Relationships between perinatal mortality and other measures of human welfare in The Netherlands are explored.
 
Article
We estimate trends in BMI values by deciles of the US adult population by birth cohorts 1882-1986 stratified by ethnicity and gender. The highest decile increased by some 18-22 BMI units in the course of the century while the lowest ones increased by merely 1-3 BMI units. For example, a typical African American woman in the 10th percentile and 64 in. (162.6 cm) tall increased in weight by just 12 pounds (5 kg) whereas in the 90th percentile her weight would have increased by 128 pounds (58 kg). Hence, the BMI distribution became increasingly right skewed as the distance between the deciles increased considerably. The rate of change of the BMI decile curves varied greatly over time and across gender and ethnicity. The BMI deciles of white men and women experienced upswings after the two world wars and downswings during the Great Depression and also decelerated after 1970. However, among African Americans the pattern is different during the first half of the century with men's rate of increase in BMI values decreasing substantially and that of females remaining constant at a relatively high level until the Second World War. After the war, though, the rate of change of BMI values of blacks came to resemble that of whites with an accelerating phase followed by a slowdown around the 1970s.
 
Article
We compare blood pressure and hypertension between adult men on the USA mainland and in Puerto Rico born during 1886-1930 to test hypotheses about the link between cardiovascular health and large socioeconomic and political changes in society: (a) 8853 men surveyed in Puerto Rico in 1965 and (b) 1449 non-Hispanic White men surveyed on the mainland during 1971-1975. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure and hypertension were regressed separately on demographic and socioeconomic variables and cardiovascular risk factors. Mainland men not taking anti-hypertensive medication showed statistically significant improvements in systolic blood pressure and hypertension at the beginning of the century and men in Puerto Rico showed improvements in diastolic blood pressure but only during the last two quinquenniums. An average man born on the mainland during the last birth quinquennium (1926-1930) had 7.4-8.7 mmHg lower systolic blood pressure and was 61% less likely to have systolic hypertension than one born before 1901. On average Puerto Rican men born during 1921-1925 had approximately 1.7 mmHg lower diastolic blood pressure than men born before 1901. Analyses of secular trends in cardiovascular health complements analyses of secular trends in anthropometric indicators and together provide a fuller view of the changing health status of a population.
 
Article
The links between adult height and socioeconomic-political marginality are controversial. We test hypotheses by comparing secular trends between two groups of USA adult male citizens born during 1886-1930: (a) 9805 men surveyed in Puerto Rico during 1965 and (b) 3064 non-Hispanic Whites surveyed on the mainland during 1971-1975. Puerto Rico provides an apt case study because it is the oldest colony in the world and was the poorest region of the USA during the 20th century. During the period considered the average adult man in Puerto Rico was 164.8 cm tall, 8.3 cm shorter than the average adult man on the mainland (173.1cm). Both groups experienced secular improvements in height, with men on the mainland having higher rates than men in Puerto Rico. In neither case were results statistically significant. The modest changes in Puerto Rico likely reflect the offsetting role of improved health and a stagnant rural economy during the first half of the 20th century.
 
Article
This paper explores the relationship between BMI and several health conditions among Union Army veterans who had medical examinations between 1891 and 1905. We find that BMI, when used as a proxy of nutrition, helps to explain morbidity and mortality differentials among veterans. There is evidence suggesting that among Union Army veterans extremely low or high BMIs were both associated with poor health, as indicated by a higher level of disability rating, higher risk of developing certain diseases, and higher mortality risk than those associated with having normal weight. Compared to veterans with normal weight, underweight veterans were more likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, but were less likely to be diagnosed with rheumatic and musculo-skeletal conditions at the first examination. High BMI levels are also associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular and rheumatic diseases, and higher mortality in the 20 years after the first examination. We performed a longitudinal analysis to study the association between earlier BMI as well as weight change and later development of diseases. The results suggest that, as a predictor of diseases, the explanatory power of BMI becomes lower the farther into the future we try to predict. Compared with those who maintained the same weight, veterans who gained weight were associated with a lower risk of being diagnosed with gastrointestinal diseases at their second examination.
 
Article
This paper investigates the relationship between physical stature, per capita income, health, and regional inequality in Japan at the prefecture-level for the period 1892-1941. The analysis shows that inequality in income and access to health services explains differences in average height of the population across the 47 Japanese prefectures during this period and that variation in income contributed to changes in height during the 1930s. Annual regional time series of height indicate that Japan experienced a regional convergence in biological welfare before 1914, and that a divergence occurred during the interwar period; personal inequality followed a similar pattern.
 
Article
Spectral analysis of the physical stature of Americans and Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries reveals a cyclical structure similar to the traditional view of the business cycle: a longer cycle with a length of 7-10 years, and a shorter cycle with a length of 3-5 years. The correlation between height cycles and cycles of economic variables such as grain prices indicates an influence of economic cycles on physical stature. The phase shift between the cycles indicates that economic conditions are especially important for growth in infancy. In part, this result is due to a cumulative effect: born into a recessionary period, a child is likely to face several cyclical downturns during the growing years.
 
Article
Data on army recruits' height are frequently available and can be used to analyze the economics and welfare of the population in different periods of history. However, such data are not a random sample from the whole population at the time of interest, but instead is skewed since the short men were less likely to be recruited. In statistical terms this means that the data are left-truncated. Although truncation is well-understood in statistics a further complication is that the truncation threshold is not known, may vary from time to time, and auxiliary information on the threshold is not at our disposal. The advantage of the fully Bayesian approach presented here is that both the population height distribution and the truncation are modeled simultaneously. The truncation threshold is allowed to be random and time-specific whilst the height distribution is assumed to change smoothly in time. Thus, in addition to the population height characteristics, we obtain also insight into recruiting criteria over time. Analysis of historical data from Swedish army recruitment in eight time events between 1768 and 1804 has found a declining trend in the mean population height during the inspected time period and also dramatic systematic changes in the recruiting.
 
Article
This paper investigates the periodicity of the adult height of Swedish soldiers of the 18th and 19th centuries using spectral analysis. The height data are left truncated due to the enforcement of minimum height requirement. Hence, we use a truncated regression model using maximum likelihood estimation. We isolate the various frequency components, assess their importance, and perform sensitivity analysis by means of fitting several alternative models.
 
Article
We estimate the height of various European populations in the first half of the 18th century. English and Irish male heights are estimated at ca. 65in. (165cm) and ca. 66in. (168cm), respectively. These values are below those obtained from the only other sample available for the period pertaining to British and Irish men, namely those of runaway indentured and convict servants in colonial North America, whose height is estimated as between 66.4 and 67.0in. (168.7 and 170.2cm). At ca. 64.5in. (164cm), Saxon, German and Scotch military heights appear to be near the bottom of the European height distribution in this period. The English were about as tall as Bohemians and French, but shorter than the Irish and Hungarians. A large decline in English heights is evident among the birth cohorts of 1725-1729, suggesting that the subsistence crisis of this period must have had a substantial lasting impact on the nutritional status of the cohort born during a time of nutritional deprivation.
 
Article
This paper is a study of the growth status of 1406 North Korean refugee children and adolescents who were between 6 and 19.9 years of age at the time of their arrival in South Korea, during the years 1995-2007, as compared with that of their South Korean peers. Refugee children of 6.5 years of age were found to be taller and heavier than North Korean children of the same age residing in North Korea. On the other hand, all of the North Korean refugee boys and girls were shorter and weighed less than their South Korean peers. This disparity in height and weight growth status was smallest during the pre-teen years and then began to increase, peaking in the mid-teen years and decreasing in the late-teen years, with the late-teen disparity being still larger than the pre-teen one. This pattern of disparity suggests that the greatest gap observed in mid-teen years was caused by differences in growth tempos during the period of pubertal growth and that the final differences in body size between the North and South Korean adults were partly pubertal in origin. The mean height-for-age z-score (HAZ) and weight-for-age z-score (WAZ) of the North Korean refugee boys were significantly lower than those of the North Korean refugee girls, indicating that the girls' growth status was better than that of the boys. In addition, the WAZ of the North Korean refugee children and adolescents was higher than their HAZ, indicating that their growth in height is poorer than that of weight. A regression analysis revealed that the mean HAZ of North Korean refugee children and adolescents born between 1995 and 1999, a period during which North Korea suffered a famine, was not statistically significantly lower than that of those born earlier. The time that the North Korean children and adolescents spent outside of North Korea before entering South Korea was discovered to have had a positive effect on their growth status, suggesting that they experienced some degree of catch-up growth while staying in transit countries. Among all the available socio-demographic variables, only four - sex, age at escape and measurement, time interval between escape from North Korea and arrival in South Korea, and year of escape - were found to be significant factors in their growth status.
 
Article
This study examines the role of height in the process of mate selection in two Italian populations at the turn of the twentieth century, Alghero, in the province of Sassari, and Treppo Carnico, in the province of Udine. Based on a linkage between military registers and marriage certificates, this study reveals a negative selection of short men on marriage and a differential effect of tallness by population in the process of mate choice. These findings emerge once SES is taken into account in the risk models of marriage.
 
Article
The study of heights provides a promising approach to a better understanding of the biological welfare of countries and regions for which conventional economic data are relatively sparse. This paper is based on a dataset previously unexploited: the individual records of nearly 10,000 Indonesian men conscripted into the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) used together with individual data on another 10,000 Indonesians, recorded as part of the Indonesian Family Life Surveys (IFLS). These two sets of records provide the height and place of birth of members of birth cohorts spanning nearly the entire 20th century. Our aim in this paper is to trace the development of average height in Indonesia over the course of the twentieth century. Whereas both average height and average income increased during the second half of the century, we find that this was only after they had diverged in the first half: a divergence similar to the one (frequently discussed in the literature) that had occurred in several other countries toward the end of the 19th century. Using a newly developed "height accounting" method, we estimate that in Indonesia increasing income inequality accounts for about half of this divergence, which gradually disappeared after the Second World War, as income inequality decreased and average height increased until it was rising in tandem with average income.
 
Article
We examine the height and weight of 320,000 German 18-22-year-old conscripts born between 1979 and 1982. We show that height and BMI outcomes are associated with the socio-economic status of a person. For example, we find a positive correlation between education and height and a negative one between education and BMI. A West-East and a North-South gradient in both height and BMI is found. Today, West German recruits are about 5.5 cm taller than their peers 43 years ago and about 12.5 cm taller than those 100 years ago, reflecting a substantial improvement in the biological standard of living. To this day, however, individuals of high socio-economic status reach an above-average height.
 
Article
We analyze self-reported anthropometric data pertaining to 2140 adults who emigrated to the United States, mainly from southern Italy, between 1908-1928 and 1960-1970. The mean height of immigrant men was 165.5 cm: they were taller than contemporary southern Italian men by 0.5-7.3 cm in different periods. The mean height of the Italian immigrant women born before 1952 was 157.6 cm, less than the national average. At the end of the 1990s, national women average height was 162 cm, 159.5 cm for southern women. There were age-related increases of weight and BMI: overweight was more prevalent in the 40-49 years age category. In the male sample, the mean values of BMI were within the overweight range in all age classes. The prevalence of obesity was higher in the male sample than among US men, whereas it was virtually identical in the women's sample and much higher than the values reported for several European countries for the period 1970-1980.
 
Article
Data on the physical growth of children can provide useful information about the temporal changes in the economic conditions of the society in which they live and the extent of social inequalities within that society as well. Several studies have documented secular changes in the physical growth of children or of adult height, but seldom have the socioeconomic differences in secular trend been reported. The aim of this study is to examine differences in the secular trend of height, weight and BMI of 10-16-year-old boys enrolled in two schools of opposite socioeconomic makeup in Lisbon, Portugal, in the early and late 20th century. The samples from the upper-middle class come from the Colégio Militar, a military boarding school, and the lower-class samples come from the Casa Pia de Lisboa, a residential school for underprivileged boys. While boys from both schools show an approximate increase of 13.6cm in height, 13.5kg in weight and 2.4kg/m(2) in BMI, the Casa Pia students were shorter and lighter than their Colégio Militar counterparts throughout the 90-year period. Social class differences in mean height, weight and BMI tend to be greater in 1910 than in 2000, but results are statistically significant for height alone. When the two periods are taken together, Colégio Militar boys differ from their Casa Pia counterparts by approximately 6.4cm in height, 4.8kg in weight and 0.4kg/m(2) in BMI. Both samples show a considerable increase in height, weight and BMI but class differences in height, weight and BMI decreased slightly if at all, throughout the 90-year period. This suggests that socioeconomic disparities are persistent, having diminished only slightly since the early 20th century.
 
Article
Based on multivariate linear regression models, we analyze the effect of the lunar cycle and the number of sunspots occurring on a particular day on the number of births using social security data and controlling for a number of other potential confounders. The daily numbers of births between 1920 and 1989 have been calculated from the full sample of individuals who have been registered at least once in the German social security system. While the lunar cycle does not affect the number of births, the number of sunspots is positively correlated to the number of births. The empirical results may be explained by medical technological progress making natural influences on births less important over time. This interpretation is supported by the results on the intertemporal influence of weekends and holidays on the frequency of daily births.
 
Article
A natural experiment is employed to analyze the relationship between living standards, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Results show that shocks generated by two powerful tropical storms striking Puerto Rico during the late 1920s and early 1930s had long-term consequences consistent with the fetal origins hypothesis. Individuals in the womb or early infancy in the aftermath of the storms are more likely to report a diagnosis of hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and are considerably more likely to have no formal schooling.
 
Article
Trends in mortality, nutritional status and food supply are compared to other living standard indicators for the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) and for the early years of the Nazi regime (1933-1937). The results imply that Germany experienced a substantial increase in mortality rates in most age groups in the mid-1930s, even relative to those of 1932, the worst year of the Great Depression. Moreover, children's heights--an indicator of the quality of nutrition and health--were generally stagnating between 1933 and 1938, but had increased significantly during the 1920s. Persecution, by itself, does not explain such an adverse development in biological welfare; the non-persecuted segments of the German population were affected as well. The reason for this adverse development was caused by the fact that military expenditures increased at the expense of public health measures. In addition, food imports were curtailed, and prices of many agricultural products were controlled. There is ample evidence that this set of economic policies had an adverse effect on the health and nutritional status of the population. The highly developed areas of Germany with large urban sectors and the coastal regions of the Northwest were affected most from the policy of restricting imports of protein-rich agricultural products.
 
Article
Anthropometric evidence is used to shed light on the living standards in early communist Czechoslovakia (1946-1966). Height and weight variation of adolescent boys exhibit a pattern that is inconsistent with that for a normal healthy population. The hypothesis is proposed that this pattern arose from periodic food supply shortages, most marked in the spring of each year. The boys in the sample display a remarkably slow growth during the spring but catch up over the summer. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
 
Article
How did nutritional status develop in sub-Saharan Africa during the second half of the 20th century, and what role did economic development play in nutrition and health? Aggregating data from more than 200,000 women in 28 sub-Saharan African countries, we use mean height as an indicator of net nutritional status and find that the nutritional status of 1960 birth cohorts was relatively high. This situation, however, was not sustained. In almost all countries examined, mean heights were stagnating or decreasing after the 1970 cohorts. Using regression analysis we model human growth from birth to maturity, and find that economic growth had a significant and robust influence on final adult height at two distinct periods of the life cycle: (1) in the first years of life and (2) at puberty. We conclude that the economic difficulties of the late 1970s and 1980s contributed to the decline or stagnation in heights.
 
Article
We present new evidence concerning the evolution of adult height across Spanish regions for the 1950-1980 male and female birth cohorts, using the augmented sample of the European Community Household Panel (ECHP) for Spain. This augmented sample, available only for the year 2000, contains self-reported height data representative at the Autonomous Community level. The average heights of these two sets of birth cohorts, female and male, are found to increase by 1.7 and 1.6cm/decade, respectively. Making available a new dataset of quinquennial mean heights will allow researchers to study the determinants of population heights by means of a within-country analysis.
 
Article
The potential effect that food prices may have on the health of the U.S. population needs to be further explored, particularly in light of the rising food prices currently being observed. Declining food prices over time have been singled out as a main contributor, for example, to the rising trend in obesity. In this paper we use data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association, the Consumer Expenditure Survey, and the United States Department of Agriculture to analyze trends in various types of food prices, to create a food price index, and to estimate the price of a calorie. Results may be used by future researchers in estimating the health implications of these trends. We find that while the general trend in food prices has been declining, that of restaurant meal prices and prices of fruits and vegetables has risen over time. It is doubtful that the decline in food prices has been sufficiently large to account for the large increase in caloric intake that is said to have contributed to the obesity epidemic in the U.S.
 
Secular trend of CDC-standardized height by age groups in correspondence to real chained GDP series (in constant 2000 kunas) from 1951 to 2010. Note: 1 EUR = 7.57 kuna; 1 USD = 5.79 kuna (Midpoint Exchange Rates of the Croatian National Bank on 7th May 2013). Total population size according to the 2011 Census = 4,290,612.  
Secular trend in height (cm) of Zagreb adolescents from 1991 to 2010 by age groups (15-19 years).
Secular trend in BMI (kg/m 2 ) of Zagreb adolescents from 1991 to 2010 by age groups (15-19 years).
of adolescents in CDC-defined percentile categories according to their height, weight and BMI values.
Article
Most studies analysing the influence of socioeconomic deterioration on body size focus on the impact of food shortages and diseases on the growth in early childhood. To evaluate how socioeconomic conditions influence the growth during the adolescence, we tracked the body size of 15-19 year-olds over the last sixty years covering the socialist period (1951-1990), the war (1991-1995) and the transition to capitalistic economy. This study of Zagreb, Croatia, adolescent population provides information on the secular trend in height, weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) and examines their relation with Real Gross Domestic Product. From 1951 to 2010 the girls' height approximately increased by 6.2cm and weight by 6.8kg, while the boys' height increased by 12.2cm and weight by 17.3kg. Prior to 1991 mean BMI in girls was higher than in boys, but from 1991 on, the interrelation between the sexes has been opposite, possibly mirroring the cultural trends that started in mid-1970s and reflecting higher sensitivity of boys to the socioeconomic changes. In conclusion, the secular trend in body size over the investigated period reflects the positive economic trends interrupted by the war. The recent increase in BMI corresponds to the country's economic recovery and indicates the "nutrition transition".
 
Article
Secular changes in height have been observed in many regions of Poland using cross-sectional data; however, data from four nationally representative surveys conducted from 1955 to 1988 have only been partially analyzed. Dramatic social and economic transitions during this 33 year period provide a unique opportunity to understand changes in growth within this historic context. We analyzed the changes in height of boys, aged 7-18 years, from surveys conducted in 1955, 1966, 1978 and 1988. Data for height were converted to Z-scores using the LMS method and the 2000 National Center for Health Statistics reference. In each consecutive survey year, boys at all ages were significantly taller than the same aged boys from the previous survey year, with mean height increases of a 2.35 cm, 3.43 cm and 1.47 cm between 1955 and 1966, 1966 and 1978 and 1978 and 1988, respectively. There were significant declines with age in height Z-scores from 7 to 14 years of age, followed by improvements relative to the reference between 14 and 18 years of age. The decline in Z-scores may be partially explained by an effect of delayed maturation. However, historic context also supports that some birth cohorts likely experienced a more adverse environment during early childhood than did other birth cohorts.
 
Article
Theoretical justifications for state-sanctioned sterilization of individuals provided by Irving Fisher rationalized its racialization on grounds that certain non-white racial groups, particularly blacks due to their dysgenic biological and behavioral traits, retarded economic growth and should be bred out of existence. Fisher's rationale suggests that national or state level eugenic policies that sterilized the so-called biological and genetically unfit could have been racist in both design and effect by disproportionately targeting black Americans. We empirically explore this with data on eugenic sterilizations in the State of North Carolina between 1958 and 1968. Count data parameter estimates from a cross-county population allocation model of sterilization reveal that the probability of non-institutional and total sterilizations increased with a county's black population share-an effect not found for any other racial group in the population. Our results suggest that in North Carolina, eugenic sterilization policies were racially biased and genocidal.
 
Article
Using a difference-in-difference method and data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS), this paper attempts to quantify the intergenerational health effects on children in rural China of the 1959-1961 Great Famine. By differentiating mother, father, both parents, and none of parents exposed to famine, the analysis puts mother's and father's famine exposure in one unifying framework. Therefore, the methodology achieves identification without concern for multicollinearity and omitted variable bias found in the previous literature. The results imply that children with both parents born in the Great Famine are significantly shorter by 0.37 standard deviations (1.89cm for boys and 1.78cm for girls) compared to children with no parents born in the mass starvation. There are also gender and age differences relative to the intergenerational effects of the famine. Girls suffer more than boys, and children between 8 and 12 years of age suffer more than the other age groups. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
 
Article
Using the 1959-1961 Chinese Great Leap Forward Famine as a natural experiment, this study examines the relationship between mothers' prenatal exposure to acute malnutrition and their children's infant mortality risk. According to the results, the effect of mothers' prenatal famine exposure status on children's infant mortality risk depends on the level of famine severity. In regions of low famine severity, mothers' prenatal famine exposure significantly reduces children's infant mortality, whereas in regions of high famine severity, such prenatal exposure increases children's infant mortality although the effect is not statistically significant. Such a curvilinear relationship between mothers' prenatal malnutrition status and their children's infant mortality risk is more complicated than the linear relationship predicted by the original fetal origins hypothesis but is consistent with the more recent developmental origins of health and disease theory.
 
Top-cited authors
Ulf-G. Gerdtham
  • Lund University
Christopher Ruhm
  • University of Virginia
Tim J Cole
  • University College London
Stanley Ulijaszek
  • University of Oxford
John Komlos
  • Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich