Heights and Human Welfare: Recent Developments and New Directions
Since 1995 approximately 325 publications on stature have appeared in the social sciences, which is more than a four-fold increase in the rate of production relative to the period 1977-1994. The expansion occurred in several areas, but especially within economics, indicating that heights are now widely accepted as a useful measure of human welfare. Much of this new work extends beyond the traditional bailiwick of anthropometric history, including biological welfare during economic and political crises; anthropometric influences on wages; the welfare of women relative to men in the contemporary world; the fetal origins hypothesis; and inequality in the developing world. The approach has also expanded within economic history to consider the consequences of empire for colonials; the health of populations lacking traditional measures of social performance; the consequences of smallpox; and very long-term trends in health. Much has also been learned about socioeconomic aspects of inequality, the welfare implications of industrialization, and socioeconomic determinants of stature. The last is a work in progress and one may doubt whether sufficient longitudinal evidence will become available for a complete understanding of the variety and strength of pathways that affect human physical growth.
The author thanks Joerg Baten, Scott Carson, Dora Costa, Angus Deaton, John Komlos, Tim Leunig, Marco Sunder, and Joachim Voth for comments and suggestions. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January. citation courtesy of