Did Smallpox Reduce Height? Stature and the Standard of Living in London, 1770-1873

Nov 1995 | 001

Authors: Hans-Joachim Voth, Timothy Leunig


In this paper, we re-examine the effect of smallpox on the height attained by those who suffered from this disease. To this end, we analyse a dataset assembled by Floud, Wachter and Gregory on the height of recruits into the Marine Society, 1770-1873. Using both time series and cross-sectional analysis, we show that smallpox was indeed an important determinant of height: those who had suffered from smallpox were significantly shorter. This suggests that the increase in heights documented by Floud et al. may be explained not just by increased nutritional intake, but also by the eradication of smallpox.

JEL Codes: N33


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