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Fertility decline and the heights of children in Britain, 1886-1938

Hatton, TJ and Martin, RM (2010) 'Fertility decline and the heights of children in Britain, 1886-1938.' Explorations in Economic History, 47 (4). 505 - 519. ISSN 0014-4983

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Abstract

In this paper we argue that the fertility decline that began around 1880 had substantial positive effects on the health of children, as the quality-quantity trade-off would suggest. We use microdata from a unique survey from 1930s Britain to analyse the relationship at the household level between the standardised heights of children and the number of children in the family. Our results suggest that heights are influenced positively by family income per capita and negatively by the number of children or the degree of crowding in the household. The evidence suggests that family size affected the health of children through its influence on both nutrition and disease. Applying our results to long-term trends, we find that rising household income and falling family size contributed significantly to improving child health between 1886 and 1938. Between 1906 and 1938 these variables account for 40% of the increase in heights, and much of this effect is due to falling family size. We conclude that the fertility decline is a neglected source of the rapid improvement in health in the first half of the twentieth century. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Economics, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2012 21:04
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2019 00:17
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/3241

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