Childhood Health, Nutrition, and Average Adult Height in Low-Income Countries

Yoko Akachi, Harvard School of Public Health
David Canning, Harvard University

We create a database of adult heights for twenty-nine low-income countries for birth cohorts born between 1945 and 1985. We study the effect of average protein and calorie consumption, and the infant mortality rate, on cohort adult height. Most of the variation in height across countries is due to fixed effects, while sampling variation in measured cohort height produces a low signal to noise ratio in the data. Taking account of these factors, we find that variations in cohort height over time are sensitive to changing health and nutrition at birth and in adolescence. The presence of large fixed effects means that it may be unwise to use population height as a measure of health and nutrition in comparisons across different populations. Changes in cohort height over time can be used as a measure of changing childhood health and nutrition, provided health is understood as morbidity rather than mortality.

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Presented in Session 133: Life Course Perspectives on Health: Effects of Early Environments