, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 33–60 | Cite as

Biological well-being in late nineteenth-century Philippines

  • Jean-Pascal BassinoEmail author
  • Marion Dovis
  • John Komlos
Original Paper


This paper investigates the biological standard of living in the Philippines toward the end of Spanish rule. We investigate levels, trends, and determinants of physical stature from the birth cohorts of the 1860s to the 1890s using data on 23,000 Filipino soldiers enlisted by the US military between 1901 and 1913. We estimate average heights and use province-level information for investigating the determinants of biological well-being. We find that at 159.3 cm (62.7 inches), the average height of soldiers born in the mid-1870s was very short even for the time. The low biological standard of living observed in late nineteenth-century Philippines was not due to the tropical disease environment alone since greater heights were recorded for the same period in other parts of Asia with a similar climate. The results also indicate a decline of more than 1.5 cm (0.6 inches) in the height of soldiers born between the early 1870s and the late 1880s. This decline occurred at a time when there was an expansion of commercial activity in cash crop production for export. Heights did not regain the level of the 1870s until the late 1930s and early 1940s.


Height Biological standard of living Human capital Tropical diseases Truncated regression Philippines 

JEL Classification

I10 N35 N95 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Pascal Bassino
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marion Dovis
    • 2
  • John Komlos
    • 3
  1. 1.IAO, ENS LyonUniversity of LyonLyon CedexFrance
  2. 2.Aix-Marseille University (Aix-Marseille School of Economics), CNRS & EHESSMarseilleFrance
  3. 3.Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (emeritus)MunichGermany

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