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How Have Europeans Grown so Tall?

39 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2011  

Timothy J. Hatton

University of Essex - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: July 2011


Increases in human stature are seen as a key indicator of improvement in the average health of populations. The literature associates stature with a variety of socioeconomic variables, and much of the focus is on the nineteenth century and on the last 50 years. In this paper I present and analyse a new dataset for the average height of adult male cohorts, from the mid-nineteenth century to 198'8 in fifteen European countries. In little more than a century average height increased by 11cm -- representing a dramatic improvement in health. Interestingly, there was a distinct acceleration in the period spanning the two World Wars and the Great Depression. I examine the influence of socioeconomic variables on height through the two key channels: nutrition and the disease environment. The evidence suggests that the most important single cause of increasing height was the improving disease environment as reflected by the fall in infant mortality. Rising income and education and falling family size had more modest effects. Improvements in health care are hard to identify and the effects of the welfare state spending seem to have been small.

Keywords: Health, Human Stature, Twentieth Century Europe

JEL Classification: I12, I38, N24

Suggested Citation

Hatton, Timothy J., How Have Europeans Grown so Tall? (July 2011). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP8490. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1897996

Timothy J. Hatton (Contact Author)

University of Essex - Department of Economics ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom
+44 1206 872182 (Phone)
+44 1206 872724 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

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