Height, robustness and living conditions: spatial patterns and cohort dynamics in 20th-century Spain

Antonio D. Cámara, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Joan García-Román, Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics (CED)

Anthropometrics have been profusely utilized during the last decades in the analysis of long-term trends in biological living standards. In this work we analyze regional patterns and differentials in height and robustness across Spanish regions among male cohorts born during the central decades of the 20th century. These cohorts grew-up during a key phase of the contemporary history of that country because of the dramatic socioeconomic and demographic changes experienced alongside. Interestingly, those cohorts lived very different life experiences that included contexts of hardship and severe deprivation and context of strong economic development and generalized welfare provisions. The study covers 40 birth cohorts born between 1934 and 1973 whose living conditions are approached by means of the aforementioned anthropometric measures. Data come from the Military Statistics that were included in the Statistic Yearbooks of Spain and therefore they are exclusively referred to males. From these data, time-cohort series and anthropometric cartography are constructed (i.e. cohort trends and regional patterns of height, BMI and robustness index) which are supplemented with data on regional per capita GDP and infant mortality rates. Deviations from the national means as well as variations in the ranking within the country serve for the purposes of the paper. Results show a process of convergence both across regions and between cohorts that was particularly intense among cohorts born during the 1950s and the 1960s. Nevertheless, the regional anthropometric pattern was very persistent at least until the 1990s (cohorts born during the 1970s). This pattern was characterized by a higher robustness of North-Eastern regions which has only part to do with wealth. In general, wealthy regions were traditionally taller and more robust but there are interesting discrepancies on this correlation that are conveniently analyzed and commented. Also discrepancies between height and robustness are observed that will deserve in-depth comments.

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Presented in Poster Session 3