Journal of Bioeconomics

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 309–330 | Cite as

Black and white female body mass index values in the developing late 19th and early 20th century United States

  • Scott Alan CarsonEmail author


When traditional measures for economic welfare are scarce or unreliable, stature and the body mass index (BMI) are now widely-used measures that reflect economic conditions. However, little work exists for late 19th and early 20th century women’s BMIs in the US and how they varied over time. Women’s BMIs stagnated throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After controlling for characteristics, African-American women had higher BMIs than lighter complexioned mixed-race and white women. Women from the Southwest were taller and had lower BMIs than women born elsewhere within the US. Alternatively, women’s BMIs did not vary by socioeconomic status.


Late 19th and early 20th century women’s BMIs Ethnicity and BMI Women’s health during economic development 

JEL Classification

N31 N32 I12 J15 



I appreciate comments from John Komlos, Rick Steckel, Doug Henderson, Shahil Sharma, Chinuedu Akah, Meekam Okeke, Lee Carson, Joe Beene, Paul Hodges, and an anonymous referee.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Texas, Permian BasinOdessaUSA

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