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The Height and Weight of West Point Cadets: Dietary Change in Antebellum America

  • John Komlos (a1)

A decline in nutritional status is inferred from data on the height and weight of West Point cadets in the antebellum period. The decline was geographically widespread and affected farmers and blue-collar workers the most; middle-class cadets did not experience a decline in nutritional status until the Civil War. Nutritional status declined because meat output did not keep pace with population growth. Urbanization and the expansion of the industrial labor force increased the demand for food. However, the agricultural labor force grew at a slower pace, and productivity growth in food production was insufficient to redress the imbalance.

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John Komlos , “Patterns of Children's Growth in East-Central Europe in the Eighteenth Century,” Annals of Human Biology, 13 (01/021986), pp. 3348;

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Claudia Goldin , “The Economic Status of Women in the Early Republic: Quantitative Evidence,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 16 (Winter, 1986), pp. 375404.

Robert A. Margo and Richard H. Steckel , “The Height of American Slaves: New Evidence on Slave Nutrition and Health,” Social Science History, 6 (Fall1982), pp. 516–38.

Christopher Clark , “The Household Economy, Market Exchange and the Rise of Capitalism in the Connecticut Valley, 1800–1860,” Journal of Social History, 13 (Winter1979), pp. 169–90.

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The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-economic-history
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