Government decisions before and during the First World War and the living standards in Germany during a drastic natural experiment

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    • Matthias Blum

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    The First World War hit Germany severely, particularly the agricultural sector, because the outbreak came unexpected and its duration exceeded all expectations. Many resources necessary for agricultural production were required by the war economy and led to shortages and shrinking supplies. Many agricultural laborers were drafted and the blockade imposed by the allies prevented Germany from a great deal of imports. As a consequence, the nutritional situation was devastating, particularly after 1916, and hit all groups of the German society. The period under observation provides one of most drastic natural experiments in the 20th century. This study uses anthropometric data from German soldiers who served in the Second World War to trace living standards between the 1900s and the 1920s. In contrast to other approaches, this paper is able to distinguish between social groups by occupation, religious denominatio\n, regional origin, and city size. The results suggest that although all social strata were hit by famine conditions, the height of farmers, urban citizens, Catholics, and especially individuals born in the highly integrated food-import regions along the coast and the banks of the Rhine declined most.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)556-567
    JournalExplorations in Economic History
    Journal publication date2011
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

      Research areas

    • First World War; Famine; Blockade; Height; Anthropometrics; Germany

    ID: 11367096