Stature Living Standards And Economic Development Essays
A central problem for studying living standards in the past is familiar to all historical inquiry –limited empirical sources.Economic historians have constructed real wages to study purchasing power, and demographic historians study mortality and morbidity to better understand how industrialisation and urbanisation affected health.Economic historians have long asked how the early stages of the historical industrialisation process affected welfare.Although industrialisation in Europe and North America raised GDP per capita dramatically, it also generated some ‘bads’, including unhealthy cities and hard work under unpleasant conditions.And they have assembled millions of data points in doing so.But a common feature of most of these data sets is that they do not add up to representative samples of the underlying population.Friederich Engels’ 1845 portrayal of English factory working conditions, for example, sounds as bad as anything in modern third-world sweatshops.By some economists’ accounts, the growth of real wages was too slow to offset the negative consequences of industrialisation, implying that those who lived through the Industrial Revolution were worse off than preceding generations.
To achieve its full height potential, the body requires nutrition that it can devote to growth after providing calories sufficient for metabolic function and work effort.
Disease makes its own demands on nutritional input.
Poor nutrition, hard work effort, and frequent illness make for short people.
The US experience, where mean height apparently declined by about 5cm (about two inches) from 1830 to 1880, is an example of the industrialisation puzzle.
This result supports an extremely pessimistic understanding of how industrialisation affects human welfare.