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Sample selection biases and the historical growth pattern of children

Schneider, Eric B. (2020) Sample selection biases and the historical growth pattern of children. Social Science History. ISSN 0145-5532

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Abstract

Bodenhorn et al. (2017) have sparked considerable controversy by arguing that the fall in adult stature observed in military samples in the United States and Britain during industrialisation was a figment of unobserved selection into the samples. While subsequent papers have questioned the extent of the bias (Komlos and A’Hearn 2016; Zimran 2017), there is renewed concern about selection bias in historical anthropometric datasets. Therefore, this paper extends Bodenhorn et al.’s discussion of selection bias on unobservables to sources of children’s growth, specifically focussing on biases that could distort the age pattern of growth. Understanding how the growth pattern of children has changed is important since these changes underpinned the secular increase in adult stature and are related to child stunting observed in developing countries today. However, there are significant sources of unobserved selection in historical datasets containing children and adolescents’ height and weight. This paper highlights, among others, three common sources of bias: 1) positive selection of children into secondary school in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; 2) distorted height by age profiles created by age thresholds for enlistment in the military; and 3) changing institutional ecology which determines to which institutions children are sent. Accounting for these biases adjusts the literature in two ways: evidence of a strong pubertal growth spurt in the nineteenth century is weaker than formerly acknowledged and some long run analyses of changes in children’s growth are too biased to be informative, especially for Japan.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/social-sci...
Additional Information: © 2019 Social Science History Association
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
JEL classification: I - Health, Education, and Welfare > I0 - General > I00 - General
N - Economic History > N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income, and Wealth > N30 - Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income and Wealth: General, International, or Comparative (Migration)
O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O1 - Economic Development > O15 - Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J1 - Demographic Economics > J13 - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
C - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods > C5 - Econometric Modeling > C52 - Model Evaluation and Selection
C - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods > C8 - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs > C81 - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data
Date Deposited: 16 May 2019 13:27
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2020 23:26
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/100826

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