Americans used to be a lot taller than Europeans but Europeans in several countries became taller after WW2 and this reflects early childhood health and nutrition

For centuries, Americans were the NBA players of the world. Americans were two inches taller than the Red Coats [british] the USA fought against in the American Revolution. In 1850, Americans had about two and a half inches on people from every European country. But our stature plateaued after World War II, and since then, other countries shot past us. White Americans have grown a bit taller since the early 1980s, but African Americans haven’t.

Your childhood environment can give you (or take away) three or four inches. A lack of nutrient-rich food and clean water explains why stunting is prevalent among children in developing countries. Studies of North Koreans found that those born after the country was divided in two were about two inches shorter than their counterparts in the South.

In a 2010 study, Timothy Hatton estimated that declining fertility was responsible for 40 percent of the height increase in Britain between 1906 and 1938. There is an updated 2014 study – “Health, Height and the Household at the Turn of the 20th Century”.

Their findings point to a number of household features that are associated with differences in adult height. These affect height through both nutrition and disease. The first is the negative effect on height of the number of brothers and sisters. Our results therefore support the idea of a trade-off between the quantity of children and their quality in terms of health—something that is widely believed for the nineteenth century, but rarely measured. Other results include a negative effect of overcrowding on height as well as a negative effect of the share of earners in the household. In the presence of these variables the occupational class of the head of household also has a significant effect. However, local conditions still matter, in particular the disease environment as represented by infant mortality. This finding is consistent with those of other studies, and underlying it is the degree of overcrowding in the locality, its industrial character and the extent of female illiteracy. The last of these supports the idea that a more educated female population was conducive to the better nurturing of children.

Childhood determinants of height

Height is now a widely accepted indicator of the health status of populations. Aside from genetic influences, height is determined during childhood by nutrition and by the disease environment.

There was a 2009 study of height in the USA based on ethnicity, gender and income levels. Richer people tend to be taller.

Here is an article about heights of men in the USA and Europe

Norway, Germany and Netherlands are taller than Americans

Good health care and good nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood are two reasons why the Dutch have grown so tall, Komlos says. In addition, the Dutch guarantee equal access to critical resources like prenatal care. That’s not the case in the United States, where 17 percent of the population has no health insurance.

NBF – Note that the theory of healthcare is not a complete proof since Canadians are shorter than Americans and Canadians have universal healthcare.

Wikipedia has a table of average heights around the world.

First Column Country, Second column average height men, Third Column Average height Women

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