The Effect of the Second World War on the Growth Pattern of Height in Japanese Children: Catch-Up Growth, Critical Windows and the First Thousand Days

82 Pages Posted: 28 May 2020

See all articles by Eric Schneider

Eric Schneider

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Kota Ogasawara

Tokyo Institute of Technology

Tim J. Cole

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

Date Written: May 2020

Abstract

This paper analyses the influence of the Second World War on the long-run pattern of child growth in Japan. We construct a prefecture-level dataset of mean heights of boys and girls from ages six to nineteen from 1929 to 2015. Linking the heights recorded at different ages for the same birth cohort, we measure a counterfactual causal effect of the nutritional shock of rationing, food shortages and other health shocks during the Second World War on the growth pattern of children. We find that at adulthood, Japanese boys and girls were 3.0 and 1.7 cm shorter than they would have been if the war had never occurred. The war also led to a delay in the pubertal growth spurt of about 0.5 years and slower maturation of children. These effects were greatest for children who experienced the war in late childhood and early adolescence. However, there were not strong penalties for children exposed to the war in utero and in early life, suggesting that they experienced catch-up growth as health conditions improved after the war. These findings challenge the thousand-days consensus that children cannot recover from nutritional shocks in early life and indicate that adolescence can be a sensitive period for health shocks.

Keywords: Catch-up growth, Child growth, Health shocks, Japan, nutrition, Second World War

JEL Classification: I15, J13, J16, N35, O15

Suggested Citation

Schneider, Eric and Ogasawara, Kota and Cole, Tim J., The Effect of the Second World War on the Growth Pattern of Height in Japanese Children: Catch-Up Growth, Critical Windows and the First Thousand Days (May 2020). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14808, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3612879

Eric Schneider (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Kota Ogasawara

Tokyo Institute of Technology ( email )

2-12-1 O-okayama, Meguro-ku
Tokyo 152-8550, 52-8552
Japan

Tim J. Cole

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health ( email )

30 Guilford Street
London, England WC1N 1EH
United Kingdom

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