The Height Gap

A widely-held misconception is that people, in general, are getting taller. Another one is that Americans are the tallest people in the world. A handful of anthropologists led by John Komlos, a professor at the University of Munich, is using the average heights of people as a unique historical and contemporary index of health and nutrition. Among the insights this research has provided are that people in A.D. 800 probably lived better (or at least ate better) than those in 1700, and that the average slave in the American south was nearly as well-fed in adulthood as white farmers in the north, although children were malnourished until they were old enough to work. Height measurements also provide clues to the nutrition of population sub-groups in contemporary societies; Komlos has studied Americans by race, gender, income, and education, and at whites alone, blacks alone, people with advanced degrees, and thosein the highest income bracket. None of them are getting taller, in contrast to the Dutch, who can claim the "world's tallest" title. This article is (temporarily) available online, as is a forum for discussion of it.

Pick Attribution: 

Burkhard Bilger

Publication Date: 
Sunday, April 4, 2004