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 living standards. We use a new sample of about 3,400 infants and children living in Lisbon to document trends in the prevalence of stunting and wasting between 1906 and 1994. We find that stunting and wasting fell quickly from around 1950, for both males and females. We additionally use a sample of more than 26,000 young adult males covering the entire country, which shows a consistent decrease in 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. Sustained progress began well before the introduction of democracy.