, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 647–669 | Cite as

Adult height and childhood disease

  • Carlos Bozzoli
  • Angus DeatonEmail author
  • Climent Quintana-Domeque


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.


Birth Cohort Congenital Malformation Average Height Rich Country Adult Height 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlos Bozzoli
    • 1
  • Angus Deaton
    • 2
    Email author
  • 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

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