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Diagnosing Sample-Selection Bias in Historical Heights: A Reply to Komlos and A’Hearn

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 November 2019

Howard Bodenhorn
Affiliation:
Howard Bodenhorn is Professor, Clemson University 170 Sirrine Hall, Clemson, SC 29634 and NBER, Cambridge, MA. E-mail: BODNHRN@clemson.edu.
Timothy W. Guinnane
Affiliation:
Timothy W. Guinnane is Professor, Yale University, 27 Hillhouse, Room 12, New Haven, CT 06520. E-mail: timothy.guinnane@yale.edu.
Thomas A. Mroz
Affiliation:
Thomas A. Mroz is Professor, Andrew Young School, Georgia State University, 55 Park Place, Room 660, Atlanta, GA 30303 and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA. E-mail: tmroz@gsu.edu.

Abstract

Our 2017 article in this Journal stresses the pitfalls of using choice-based samples in economic history. A prominent example is the literature addressing the so-called antebellum puzzle. Heights researchers claim that Americans grew shorter in the first half of the nineteenth century, a period of robust economic growth. We argue that this result relies on choice-based samples. Without knowing the process that led to inclusion in the sample, researchers cannot properly estimate conditional mean heights. We proposed a diagnostic that can detect, but not correct for, selection bias. Komlos and A’Hearn’s interpretation of our analysis confuses diagnosis with cure. We dispute their view that selection bias has been appreciated in the heights literature.

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Article
Copyright
© The Economic History Association 2019 

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Footnotes

The views expressed are those of the authors’ and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System.

References

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