New Sources and New Techniques for the Study of Secular Trends in Nutritional Status, Health, Mortality, and the Process of Aging

Robert William Fogel

NBER Historical Working Paper No. 26
Issued in December 1993
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

The aim of this paper is to describe the full dimensions of a new and rapidly growing research program that uses new data sources on food consumption, anthropometric measures, genealogies, and life-cycle histories to shed light on secular trends in nutritional status, health, mortality, and the process of aging. The exploitation of these types of data involves integration of analytical procedures in medicine and economics with those of demography. The discussion is divided into four parts. Part one deals with sources on food consumption and with methods of exploiting these sources that involve the integration of energy cost accounting with techniques for the analysis of income distributions. The second part is concerned with sources of anthropometric information and with techniques that may be utilized to relate such information to the assessment of health and mortality. Part three involves the more complex problem of relating socioeconomic and biomedical stress suffered by individuals early in life to their work levels, health and mortality rates at middle and late ages. The final section discusses the uses of genealogies by themselves and in combination with the preceding data sources.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/h0026

Published: Historical Methods, Volume 26, No. 1, pp. 5-43, (Winter 1993).

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