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Measuring misery: body mass, ageing and gender inequality in Victorian London

Horrell, Sara, Meredith, David and Oxley, Deborah (2009) Measuring misery: body mass, ageing and gender inequality in Victorian London. Explorations in Economic History, 46 (1). 93 - 119. ISSN 0014-4983

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.eeh.2007.12.001


This paper investigates the proposition made by contemporaries that women and children disproportionately bore the brunt of industrialisation and urbanisation by examining how poor working-class families in mid-Victorian London shared their resources. Allocation is inferred from independently pooled cross-sectional data on the height, weight and body mass of 32,584 prisoners from a London House of Correction. As boys and girls moved into adulthood, they made some biological gains consistent with 'catch up' on earlier deprivation. The body masses of women and men then diverged. When families grew, women shrank. When children left home taking their wages with them, when age reduced the earning capacities of herself and her husband, women suffered even more, becoming dangerously underweight in older age. Ageing was a gendered experience.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2007 Elsevier Inc
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income, and Wealth > N33 - Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income and Wealth: Europe: Pre-1913
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2019 12:30
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 02:14

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