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Atmospheric Pollution, Health, and Height in Late Nineteenth Century Britain

  • Roy E. Bailey (a1), Timothy J. Hatton (a2) and Kris Inwood (a3)

In nineteenth century Britain atmospheric pollution from coal-fired industrialization was on the order of 50 times higher than today. We examine the effects of these emissions on child development by analysing the heights on enlistment during WWI of men born in England and Wales in the 1890s. We find a strong negative relationship between adult heights and the coal intensity of the districts in which these men were observed as children in the 1901 census. The subsequent decline in atmospheric pollution likely contributed to the long-term improvement in health and increase in height.

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We are grateful to Jonathan Chapman, Humphrey Southall, Adam Bonnycastle, and the U.K. Data Archive for help with data sources, and to Jeremy van Dijk and Danielle van Wagner for able research assistance. We have benefited from useful comments from Walker Hanlon, John Tang, and Zachary Ward, as well as from participants at seminars at Monash University, Australian National University, and NHH Bergen, a workshop at the London School of Economics, and the World Congress of Cliometrics at Strasbourg. We much appreciate guidance from the editor and two anonymous referees. Hatton gratefully acknowledges support from the Australian Research Council, Discovery Project DP140103603.

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