Making Health Work: Human Growth in Modern Japan

Posted: 9 Apr 2011

See all articles by Carl Mosk

Carl Mosk

University of Victoria - Economics

Date Written: 1996


"Making Health Work: Human Growth in Modern Japan" shows how population quality – specifically, the population quality of schoolchildren in Japan, as measured with extensive figures on height, weight, chest girth, and the body mass index – provides a key to understanding economic growth and social change in that greatly changed society. Japan, perhaps more than any other country in the twentieth century, exemplifies the capacity to industrialize rapidly and raise income levels despite severe natural resource constraints. The quality of a population determines its work capacity and capability, physically and mentally, and is determined by net nutritional intake. Not surprisingly, the statistics marshaled in this volume demonstrate that nutritional intake – gross intake less the nutrients burned in fueling physical work and combating infectious disease – increased in Japan during the period 1900-1985. The study also shows that gross food intake played a minor role. The main reasons for the increase in net nutrition are a decline in the rate of physical work extracted from children and greater medical and public health efficacy in fighting infection. In addition the book emphasizes the crucial importance of social and political factors in the distribution of population quality across social and economic levels. In particular, the study shows how the politics of entitlements to food and to public health services molded outcomes for particular groups. During the preindustrial period entitlements were segmented along geographic lines, and strongly market oriented. The legacy of this balkanization slowed the development of new institutions governing entitlements, which might be more suitable in an era of industrialization. Ultimately changes came about through the voicing of demand for entitlements through markets and through social and political protest movements.

Suggested Citation

Mosk, Carl, Making Health Work: Human Growth in Modern Japan (1996). Available at SSRN:

Carl Mosk (Contact Author)

University of Victoria - Economics ( email )

Victoria V8W Y2Y, BC

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