Stature and Sibship: Historical Evidence

26 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2015

See all articles by Timothy J. Hatton

Timothy J. Hatton

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

Date Written: June 2015

Abstract

This paper examines historical evidence for a quality-quantity trade-off between sibship size and height as an indicator of health. The existing literature has focused more on education than on health and has it produced mixed results. Historical evidence is limited by the lack of household level data with which to link an individual’s height with his or her childhood circumstances. Nevertheless a few recent studies have shed light in this issue. Evidence for children in interwar Britain and for soldiers born in the 1890s who enlisted in the British army at the time of WW1 is reviewed in detail. Both studies support the idea of a significant trade-off, partly due to income dilution and partly because, in these settings, large families were a conduit for infection. Evidence from country-level time series is consistent with this view. The fertility decline that began in the late nineteenth century made a modest but nevertheless important contribution to the overall increase in heights during the following century.

Keywords: height, historical evidence, quality-quantity tradeoff

JEL Classification: I12, I38, N24

Suggested Citation

Hatton, Timothy J., Stature and Sibship: Historical Evidence (June 2015). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP10675, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2624630

Timothy J. Hatton (Contact Author)

University of Essex - Department of Economics ( email )

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Colchester CO4 3SQ
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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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