Asher Rosinger and Ricardo Godoy
Weight and height are critical indicators of short- and long-term human nutrition and health. This chapter reviews secular trends of weight, height, and body mass index (BMI) from studies that relied on primary data of living adults in small-scale, native populations in rural areas of developing nations. Most studies reviewed found trends of increases in weight and BMI over an average study period of 20 years. Women gained an average of 8.8 kg and 3.1 kg/m2, and men gained an average of 5.1 kg and 2.1 kg/m2 over this time span. Additionally, 10 of 13 native populations reviewed had a recent overweight and obesity prevalence of at least 10 percentage points lower than the national averages for men and women combined. In contrast to weight, 12 out of 21 studies found no change (n = 8) or a decline (n = 4) in secular trends of height.
Richard H. Steckel
Beginning with Bismarck’s Germany in the late 19th century, nations gave increasing attention to measures of well-being while traveling the path to welfare states of the 20th century. Following the ascent of the germ theory of disease, governments could play a large and cost-effective role in serving public health and national competitiveness. The Great Depression energized the creation of a second important policy tool, national income accounts. This chapter discusses the evolution and application of biological measures of well-being, with comparisons to per capita gross domestic product from vital registration and life tables to morbidity and to anthropometric measures such as stature, weight, and skeletal remains. Recently, surveys of happiness have entered scholarly debate.
This chapter provides an overview of research primarily within the discipline of economics that empirically examines how biomarkers influences specific health and socioeconomic outcomes. Since the role that biomarkers are hypothesized to play in the estimating equation differs across studies, a distinction is first made between two separate categories of biomarkers: biological time-varying measures such as hormones and biological time-invariant measures including DNA. Recent research in these two categories is then reviewed, focusing on studies that can present the most credible evidence of the role of specific biomarkers. Last, an emerging literature that focuses on the interactions between time-varying environmental conditions and time-invariant genetic factors is discussed. The chapter concludes by highlights three promising areas for future research and suggesting researchers should shift their attention away from investigating specific candidate genes to polygenic risk scores, as well as focus on genetic interactions with more aggregated rather than specific environmental influences.
W. Peter Ward
Birth weight is a biometric measure of well-being widely used as an infant health indicator. It also offers insights into maternal and population health more generally. The most common measures of weight at birth are the mean and the proportion of low birth weight (LBW; less than 2,500 g) infants. LBW neonates experience higher risk of infant morbidity and mortality. Globally, LBW rates average 15%. Wealthy Western societies generally experience the highest mean weights whereas the lowest are found in some of the globe’s poorest nations. Factors affecting newborn weight fall into five categories: genetic, environmental, gestational, socioeconomic, and nutritional. Studies of birth weight concerned with change over time reveal important regional and temporal differences, notably during times of social and economic crisis. Numerous studies have identified relationships between low birth weight and a range of health problems in later life, including hypertension, coronary heart disease and non-insulin-dependent diabetes.
The Causes and Consequences of Increased Female Education and Labor Force Participation in Developing Countries
Rachel Heath and Seema Jayachandran
Two important recent trends in most developing countries are the rise in female labor force participation and the closing of gender gaps in school enrollment. This article begins by exploring the causes of the increases in female education, which include greater job availability and policy interventions that have promoted girls’ education. The article then explores the causes of increased female employment, which include a sectoral shift from “brawn-based” industries to services, as well as policies that have increased girls’ education. The article also discusses the effects of these increases in female education and labor supply, particularly for the well-being of women.
Anthropometric measures in childhood predict the risk of metabolic diseases decades later. Low birthweight and short stature are associated with higher incidence of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes in adulthood, supporting a hypothesis that early malnutrition has long-lasting adverse effects on metabolism. However, in industrialized countries, overnutrition has replaced undernutrition as a major childhood risk factor of metabolic diseases. Subsequently, body mass index is currently the most important childhood anthropometric indicator predicting the risk of adult metabolic diseases. One unit increase of body mass index at 13 years of age was found to increase the risk of coronary heart disease by 20%. Rapid growth in height in infancy, mid-childhood, and at the start of puberty is also associated with higher risk of coronary heart disease. Physical development over childhood is closely related to nutrition and other environmental factors; these associations indicate the importance of childhood environment for healthy adulthood.
Prashant Bharadwaj and Tom Vogl
This chapter reviews the literature on the effects of aggregate crises on human biological outcomes. The crises considered are acute, severe, and unexpected negative events occurring at the population level: recessions, famines, epidemics, natural and environmental disasters, and wars. A review of the literature suggests that the effects of aggregate crises on human biology are pervasive and long-lasting. More broadly, however, the literature highlights the lasting effects that social, economic, political, environmental, and pathological crises have on the human body. Children, who are never complicit in creating crises, carry the burden of exposure for the rest of their lives. Although advances in methodology and data availability have allowed researchers to uncover these nuanced but powerful effects, much work remains in improving crisis response, especially in poor countries. Such improvements would have beneficial effects long after the acute period of a crisis subsides, on outcomes far beyond its most obvious sequelae.
This article assesses the impact of changing demography on inequality and poverty. Section 2 considers how household living arrangements affect personal economic well-being and its distribution across the population. Section 3 looks at recent evidence on the inequality effects of demographic trends. These trends include the rise of cross-border migration, population ageing, delays in first marriage and first births, increases in the rate of divorce, rising female employment rates, and changes in the correlation of husbands' and wives' earnings. The article concludes with a brief discussion of unresolved issues in assessing the impact of demography on trends in inequality.
Susan L. Averett and Yang Wang
In this chapter, the authors explore the double burden of malnutrition. Although undernutrition remains a pressing issue in developing countries, for many developing nations obesity rates are rising, and obesity is emerging as a significant driver of adverse health outcomes displacing more traditional concerns of malnutrition and infectious disease. For the first time in human history, the number of overweight people rivals the number of underweight people. The chapter begins by defining and documenting the problem, then examines factors leading to its rise. The authors conclude the chapter with a discussion of potential policy responses, along with an economic rationale for such intervention.
This article focuses on education acquisition and inequality, the impact of education on economic and social outcomes and on how changes in education, together with the pattern of demand for skills, affect earnings and income distributions. Section 2 considers research that looks at connections between education acquisition and inequality at different stages of the life cycle. Section 3 discusses the economic impact of education. Section 4 considers how changes in education have altered the distribution of wages and employment and affected labour market inequality. This has become a very large research area, with evidence from many settings showing that education matters more for labour market outcomes than it did in the past. Section 5 offers some conclusions about research in this area, briefly linking it to contemporary discussions about education policy.