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date: 21 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Since the late 18th century the long-run trend in economic growth—conventionally measured by real gross domestic product, income, and wages—has been positive in the United States and throughout Europe. However, in the 19th century, many Western countries, including the United States, experienced stagnation and even cyclical downturns in the biological standard of living—as measured by, for example, the expectation of life and adult stature—thus creating the “antebellum puzzle,” so named because the downturn began in the decades before the US Civil War. This puzzle suggests that industrialization and modern economic growth were accompanied by an increase in inequality and a decrease in the consumption of net nutrients.

Keywords: economic growth, standard of living, inequality, nutrition, antebellum puzzle

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