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ANTHROPOMETRIC HISTORY OF BRAZIL, 1850–1950: INSIGHTS FROM MILITARY AND PASSPORT RECORDS

  • Daniel Franken (a1)
Abstract

Trends in human welfare in Brazil have remained shrouded by a dearth of historical evidence. Although quantitative scholars have revealed the efficacy of the First Republic (1889–1930) in fomenting economic progress, the extent to which Brazil's early economic growth fostered improvements in health remains unclear. This paper fills this void in scholarship by relying on hitherto untapped archival sources with data on human stature—a reliable metric for health and nutritional status. My analysis centres heavily on a large (n ≈ 16,000), geographically-comprehensive series compiled from military inscription files, supplemented by an ancillary dataset drawn from passport records (n ≈ 6,000). I document inferior heights in the North and Northeast that predated the advent of industrialisation. At the national level, my findings reveal an increase in stature of over 2.5 cm between soldiers born in the 1880s and those born in the 1910s. In the South and Southeast, I argue that increased real income and public-health interventions explain the earlier upward trend in heights, while rural sanitary reforms were most important in the North and Northeast, where heights remained stagnant until the 1910 decade and diseases such as hookworm and malaria were most rampant.

Las tendencias en el bienestar humano en Brasil no han sido estudiadas por una escasez de evidencia histórica. Los estudios cuantitativos muestran la eficacia de la Primera República (1889–1930) para fomentar el progreso económico, pero no queda claro hasta qué punto el crecimiento económico inicial de Brasil generó mejoras en la salud. Este trabajo llena este vacío en la literatura al basarse en fuentes primarias hasta ahora no estudiadas, con datos sobre la estatura humana, una métrica confiable para la salud y el estado nutricional. Mi análisis se centra en una gran serie (n ≈ 16,000), geográficamente integral, compilada a partir de archivos de inscripción militares, complementada por un conjunto de datos auxiliares extraídos de registros de pasaportes (n ≈ 6,000). Se documentan estaturas inferiores en el norte y el noreste que precedieron el advenimiento de la industrialisación. Al nivel nacional, mis hallazgos revelan un aumento en la estatura de más de 2,5 cm entre los soldados nacidos en la década de 1880 y los nacidos en la década de 1910. En el sur y el sureste, el aumento de ingresos reales y las intervenciones de salud pública explican la tendencia alcista en las estaturas, mientras que las reformas sanitarias rurales fueron más importantes en el norte y el noreste, donde las estaturas permanecieron estancadas hasta la década de 1910 y las enfermedades como la anquilostomiasis y la malaria eran más generalisadas.

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Jonathan and Karin Fielding School of Public Health World Policy Analysis Center. dfranken@ph.ucla.edu

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References
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Revista de Historia Economica - Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History
  • ISSN: 0212-6109
  • EISSN: 2041-3335
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