Stunting and wasting in a growing economy: biological living standards in Portugal during the twentieth century
585/2021 Alexandra L. Cermeno, Nuno Palma and Renato Pistola
Portugal’s real income per head grew by a factor of eight during the second half of the twentieth century, a period of fast convergence towards Western European standards of living. We use a new sample of about 2,000 children to document trends in the prevalence of stunting and wasting in the city of Lisbon between 1945 and 1994. We find that stunting and wasting fell quickly in the 1950s and 1960s. This happened for males and females, and for infants (0 to 36 months of age) as well as children (2 to 10 years of age). We additionally use a sample of 17,000 young adult males covering the entire country which shows a similar decrease in the incidence of wasting and stunting, with the expected time lag. We discuss these trends in relation to changes in income and public policy which affected the ontogenetic environment of children.