DP16617 Stunting and wasting in a growing economy: biological living standards in Portugal, 1924-1994

Author(s): Hugo Cardoso, Alexandra Cermeño, Nuno Pedro G. Palma, Renato Pistola
Publication Date: October 2021
Keyword(s): Anthropometrics, child health, economic development, poverty
JEL(s): I15, N34, O15
Programme Areas: Development Economics, Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16617

Portugal's real income per head grew by a factor of eight during the second half of the twentieth century, a period of fast convergence towards Western European standards of living. We use a new sample of about 2,000 children to document trends in the prevalence of stunting and wasting in the city of Lisbon between 1945 and 1994. We find that stunting and wasting fell quickly in the 1950s and 1960s. This happened for males and females, and for infants (0 to 36 months of age) as well as children (2 to 10 years of age). We additionally use a sample of 17,000 young adult males covering the entire country which shows a similar decrease in the incidence of wasting and stunting, with the expected time lag. We discuss these trends in relation to changes in income and public policy which affected the ontogenetic environment of children.