• nutrition;
  • public health;
  • standard of living;
  • stature
  • I12;
  • I18;
  • N31;
  • N33;
  • O40


Economic growth has not always generated improvements in a population's health. Biological indicators of human well-being, including stature, suggest the march to prosperity was not a steady one, and these biological indicators offer estimates of the health costs associated with modern economic growth. We employ an international data set to study the socioeconomic benefits and health costs associated with the transition to modern economic growth during the nineteenth century. We find that while the growth of GDP per capita had a positive impact on the stature of Western populations, prior to the mastery of the germ theory of disease, urbanization had a strong negative impact.