Childhood Mortality & Nutritional Status as Indicators of Standard of Living: Evidence from World War I Recruits in the United States

Michael R. Haines, Richard H. Steckel

NBER Historical Working Paper No. 121
Issued in January 2000
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

This paper examines variations in stature and the Body Mass Index (BMI) across space for the United States in 1917/18, using published data on the measurement of approximately 890,000 recruits for the American Army for World War I. It also connects those anthropometric measurements with an index of childhood mortality estimated from the censuses of 1900 and 1910. This index is taken to be an indicator of early childhood environment for these recruits. Aggregated data were published for states and groups of counties by the Surgeon General after the war. These data are related to regional data taken primarily from the censuses of 1900 and 1910. The results indicate that early childhood mortality was a good (negative) predictor of height and the body mass index, while it is also possible to predict early childhood experience from terminal adult height. Urbanization was important, although the importance declined over time. Income apparently had little effect on health in this period.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/h0121

Published: Haines MR; Steckel RH. 2000. "Childhood mortality and nutritional status as indicators of standard of living: evidence from World War I recruits in the United States." Jahrbuch Für Wirtschaftsgeschichte. no. 1. (January 1): 43.

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