Human height since 1820

Jörg Baten, Matthias Blum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Average height is an important indicator of people’s well-being. It is also a relatively undistorted and easy-to-measure indicator, which makes it particularly suitable for comparisons across time and space. Drawing upon an extensive body of research, the chapter describes the strengths and weaknesses of this indicator. It finds that during the 19th century, average height in Western Offshoots was much higher than elsewhere. Differences between Western Europe and the rest of the world (Eastern Europe, East Asia) were marginal, in spite of the much higher real incomes in the former region. This changed after about 1870, when people’s height began to increase in Western Europe, whereas this lagged behind elsewhere. Africans were relatively tall during much of the period studied, but experienced declining height in many countries after the 1960s. People in Southeast Asia stayed relatively short throughout the period.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHow Was Life? Global Well-being Since 1820
EditorsJan Luiten van Zanden, Joerg Baten, Marco Mira d' Ercole, Auke Rijpma, Conal Smith, Marcel Timmer
Place of PublicationParis
PublisherOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789264214262
ISBN (Print)9789264214064
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

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