, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 647–669

Adult height and childhood disease

  • Carlos Bozzoli
  • Angus Deaton
  • Climent Quintana-Domeque

DOI: 10.1353/dem.0.0079

Cite this article as:
Bozzoli, C., Deaton, A. & Quintana-Domeque, C. Demography (2009) 46: 647. doi:10.1353/dem.0.0079


Taller populations are typically richer populations, and taller individuals live longer and earn more. In consequence, adult height has recently become a focus in understanding the relationship between health and wealth. We investigate the childhood determinants of population adult height, focusing on the respective roles of income and of disease. Across a range of European countries and the United States, we find a strong inverse relationship between postneonatal (ages 1 month to 1 year) mortality, interpreted as a measure of the disease and nutritional burden in childhood, and the mean height of those children as adults. Consistent with these findings, we develop a model of selection and stunting in which the early-life burden of undernutrition and disease not only is responsible for mortality in childhood but also leaves a residue of long-term health risks for survivors, risks that express themselves in adult height and in late-life disease. The model predicts that at sufficiently high mortality levels, selection can dominate scarring, leaving a taller population of survivors. We find evidence of this effect in the poorest and highest-mortality countries of the world, supplementing recent findings on the effects of the Great Chinese Famine.

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlos Bozzoli
    • 1
  • Angus Deaton
    • 2
  • Climent Quintana-Domeque
    • 3
  1. 1.DIW-Berlin (German Institute for Economic Research)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.Center for Health and Wellbeing and Research Program in Development StudiesPrinceton UniversityPrinceton
  3. 3.Departament de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi EconòmicaUniversitat d'AlacantSan Vicente del RaspeigSpain