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04-29-2011, 02:42 AM   #1
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Average height

There was an interesting article / chart in the NY Times the other day...

I think people have understood the connection between average height and quality of nutrition etc... and that in the past people were generally shorter than now. Fogel has amassed a ton of evidence and information around this - economics meets genetics meets history... His main contention is that nutrition affects height and size. Others say Fogel doesn't pay enough attention to communicable disease.

Looking at the chart of men's average height I see something more: the effect of the Industrial Revolution. Note how height declines in the 1800's as America was industrializing (and cotton ginning). Clearly, for the majority of average Americans, life got worse. We know about the bad working conditions, the poor nutrition, the lack of health standards and other safety measures.

That height starts to go up is coincident with the Progressive era - and accelerates with the New Deal - is evidence that Government intervention on behalf of us all is a good thing. As regulations forced businesses to improve safety and working conditions, as the unions forced better wages (so people could actually feed themselves and not starve, or freeze in winter) and so on, the general population reaps the benefits. And I should note, to the ultra business whiners - Government isn't only a hand in your pocket and jack boot on your neck - Government (and unions) also created new markets for you, forced you to allow living wage to workers who *presto* became consumers, and created whole new categories of products and markets.

With sanitation and other health standards came the market for health related products. With attention and govt money for disease control came drug and related industries. With attention to better nutrition - and better pay for workers - came the growth of the food industry.

Of course the increase of height in the 1900's can also be attributed to the availability of better health care, improved delivery and availability of foodstuffs etc. One can take an essentially technology-centered, a-political view of this process. However, I don't think one can entirely divorce politics: as I mention above, political will determines the distribution of the benefits of society within the population. Let's say politics allowed slavery into the 1900's: would slaves have equally benefited from the distribution of new technology and nutrition etc? Or let's say the Progressive era hadn't happened... would the quality and purity of our food have improved, would the average worker still been on a serf level economically?






http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/27/books/robert-w-fogel-investigates-human-ev...r=1

QuoteQuote:
For nearly three decades, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert W. Fogel and a small clutch of colleagues have assiduously researched what the size and shape of the human body say about economic and social changes throughout history, and vice versa. Their research has spawned not only a new branch of historical study but also a provocative theory that technology has sped human evolution in an unprecedented way during the past century.

Next month Cambridge University Press will publish the capstone of this inquiry, “The Changing Body: Health, Nutrition, and Human Development in the Western World Since 1700,” just a few weeks shy of Mr. Fogel’s 85th birthday. The book, which sums up the work of dozens of researchers on one of the most ambitious projects undertaken in economic history, is sure to renew debates over Mr. Fogel’s groundbreaking theories about what some regard as the most significant development in humanity’s long history.

¶ Mr. Fogel and his co-authors, Roderick Floud, Bernard Harris and Sok Chul Hong, maintain that “in most if not quite all parts of the world, the size, shape and longevity of the human body have changed more substantially, and much more rapidly, during the past three centuries than over many previous millennia.” What’s more, they write, this alteration has come about within a time frame that is “minutely short by the standards of Darwinian evolution.”

¶ “The rate of technological and human physiological change in the 20th century has been remarkable,” Mr. Fogel said in an telephone interview from Chicago, where he is the director of the Center for Population Economics at the University of Chicago’s business school. “Beyond that, a synergy between the improved technology and physiology is more than the simple addition of the two.”

¶ This “technophysio evolution,” powered by advances in food production and public health, has so outpaced traditional evolution, the authors argue, that people today stand apart not just from every other species, but from all previous generations of Homo sapiens as well.

¶ “I don’t know that there is a bigger story in human history than the improvements in health, which include height, weight, disability and longevity,” said Samuel H. Preston, one of the world’s leading demographers and a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Without the 20th century’s improvements in nutrition, sanitation and medicine, only half of the current American population would be alive today, he said.

¶ To take just a few examples, the average adult man in 1850 in America stood about 5 feet 7 inches and weighed about 146 pounds; someone born then was expected to live until about 45. In the 1980s the typical man in his early 30s was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed about 174 pounds and was likely to pass his 75th birthday.


04-29-2011, 06:26 AM   #2
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Brings to mind the thought of whether someone denied healthcare would be denied "life" without due process of law.
04-29-2011, 06:30 AM   #3
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What might the stall in approx 1960-70 be?
04-29-2011, 11:41 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by jolepp Quote
What might the stall in approx 1960-70 be?
I was puzzling that also.

It is too late for war time shortage effects - and even so the USA never felt the deprivations like European countries for example did.

It does represent the baby boom - people born in the late 40s through the 50s - coming of measureable full grown age.

So assuming this has something to do with childhood or pre-natal conditions, what could it be?

1) post war, more of the population was able to reproduce - even the short guys Nah.
2) the early industrialized food business wasn't as nutritious - this was the era of white bread and such.
3) there was a big move away from breast feeding and the baby formulas of the time weren't up to snuff
4) maybe simply the number of kids had some biological trigger to keep us shorter?

04-29-2011, 10:36 PM   #5
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Which reminds me of something I read awhile back............Height tax.. Enjoy.
http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/mankiw/files/Optimal_Taxation_of_Height.pdf

QuoteQuote:
The problem addressed in this paper is a classic one: the optimal redistribution of income. A Utilitarian
social planner would like to transfer resources from high-ability individuals to low-ability individuals, but
he is constrained by the fact that he cannot directly observe ability. In conventional analysis, the planner
observes only income, which depends on ability and e¤ort, and is deterred from the fully egalitarian outcome
because taxing income discourages e¤ort. If the planner’s problem is made more realistic by allowing him to
observe other variables correlated with ability, such as height, he should use those other variables in addition
to income for setting optimal policy. Our calculations show that a Utilitarian social planner should levy a
sizeable tax on height. A tall person making $50,000 should pay about $4,500 more in taxes than a short
person making the same income.
Height is, of course, only one of many possible personal characteristics that are correlated with a person’s
opportunities to produce income. In this paper, we have avoided these other variables, such as race and
gender, because they are intertwined with a long history of discrimination. In light of this history, any
discussion of using these variables in tax policy would raise various political and philosophical issues that go
beyond the scope of this paper. But if a height tax is deemed acceptable, tax analysts should entertain the
possibility of using other such “tags”as well.
Many readers, however, will not so quickly embrace the idea of levying higher taxes on tall taxpayers.
Indeed, when …rst hearing the proposal, most people recoil from it or are amused by it. And that reaction
is precisely what makes the policy so intriguing. A tax on height follows inexorably from a well-established
empirical regularity and the standard approach to the optimal design of tax policy. If the conclusion is
rejected, the assumptions must be reconsidered.
Our results, therefore, leave readers with a menu of conclusions. You must either advocate a tax on
height, or you must reject, or at least signi…cantly amend, the conventional Utilitarian approach to optimal
taxation. The choice is yours, but the choice cannot be avoided.
04-29-2011, 10:37 PM   #6
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hormones in food..........
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