Stature and Living Standards in the United States [report]

Richard Steckel
1991 unpublished
The conceptual foundations and measurement of living standards have been enduring concerns for economists, human biologists, anthropologists, and other social scientists. Attempts to define and measure national income, for example, originated in the seventeenth century, while stature was used in the early nineteenth century to monitor health conditions. These and subsequent efforts to assess living conditions were sustained by several motives, including intellectual curiosity, nationalism, and
more » ... , nationalism, and desires to implement social and economic policies. The twentieth century has witnessed considerable progress in designing and implementing various measures of living standards, but scholars continue to research and debate the alternatives. This paper briefly reviews the literature on the evolution of approaches to living standards and then applies the methodology discussed for stature to the United States from the late eighteenth through the early twentieth century. Section 6.1 of the paper emphasizes two major strands of the subject: national-income accounting and related measures, developed by economists and government policymakers, and anthropometric measures (particularly stature), developed by human biologists, anthropologists, and the medical profession. Until recently the practitioners of these seemingly diverse approaches apparently had little in common and certainly had little interaction. I compare and contrast these alternative approaches to measuring living standards and place anthropometric measures within the context of the ongoing debate over the system of national accounts. Section 6.2 examines the relationship of stature to living standards, begin-Richard H.
doi:10.3386/h0024 fatcat:72va6w6ning5pmd2cnh62abv3y