Wednesday, April 07, 2004


As a short guy, I long for the days of yore, when the underfed would not see heights even close to my towering 5'8" frame.

Newmark's Door provides this link:

Biologists say that we achieve our stature in three spurts: the first in infancy, the second between the ages of six and eight, the last in adolescence. Any decent diet can send us sprouting at these ages, but take away any one of forty-five or fifty essential nutrients and the body stops growing. (“Iodine deficiency alone can knock off ten centimetres and fifteen I.Q. points,” one nutritionist told me.)

But the article, THE HEIGHT GAP by BURKHARD BILGER is really about trying to understand why Europeans are getting taller and taller—and Americans aren’t.

Marginal Revolution provides this:

For two centuries, the American man stood tall in the world. Literally. But today the average Dutch man is six foot one and the average American man is much shorter. Even as little as fifty years ago, American men were considerably taller than Dutch or other European men but since the mid 1950s the Northern Europeans have shot up while Americans have grown wider but not taller. No, it's not a composition effect due to immigration. Native born, English-speaking American men are only five feet nine and a half and this has not changed much in more than a century. Why then the difference?

Some of the more important research was done by the Economic Historian, and Nobel Laureate, Robert Fogel. Again quoting from the Bilger article:

Fogel, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1993, is the man most responsible for Komlos’s interest in height. In the fall of 1982, when Komlos was working on a Ph.D. in economics at the University of Chicago (he had earlier earned a Ph.D. in history there), Fogel gave a lecture on stature that Komlos attended. Most historians, if they thought about height at all, tended to assume that it was tied to income. The more people earn, the better they eat; the better they eat, the taller they grow. “Men grow taller and faster the wealthier their country,” the French hygienist and statistician Louis-René Villermé wrote in 1829. “In other words, misery . . . produces short people.”

Fogel knew it wasn’t that simple. In 1974, he and Stanley Engerman published an exhaustive study of slave economics entitled “Time on the Cross.” Historians had long insisted that slavery was not only inhuman; it was bad business—hungry, brutalized workers made the poorest of farmers. Fogel and Engerman found nearly the opposite to be true: Southern plantations were almost thirty-five per cent more efficient than Northern farms, their analysis showed. Slavery was a cruel and inhuman system, but more so psychologically than physically: to get the most work from their slaves, planters fed and housed them nearly as well as free Northern farmers could feed and house themselves.

Keywords: ECO120, ECO305, ECO307