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Am J Hum Biol. 2008 Jan-Feb;20(1):66-71.

Height of US-born non-Hispanic children and adolescents ages 2-19, born 1942-2002 in the NHANES samples.

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Department of Economics, University of Munich, Ludwigstr 33/IV, 80539 Munich, Germany.


We examine the height of non-Hispanic US-born children born 1942-2002 on the basis of all NHES and NHANES data sets available. We use the CDC 2000 reference values to convert height into height-for-age z-scores stratified by gender. We decompose deviations from the reference values into an age-effect and a secular trend effect and find that after an initial increase in the 1940s, heights experienced a downward cycle to reach their early 1950s peak again only c. 2 decades later. After the early 1970s, heights increased almost continuously until the present. Girls born in 2002 are estimated to be 0.35sigma and boys are 0.39sigma above their 1971 values implying an increase of approximately 2.5 cm between birth cohorts 1971 and 2002 as an average of all ages (Table 3). Age effects are also substantial-pointing to faster tempo of growth. Girls are c. 0.23sigma taller at age 11 and boys 0.15sigma taller at age 13 than reference values (Fig. 3). This translates into an age effect of approximately 1.7 and 1.3 cm, respectively. Hence, the combined estimated trend and age-effects are substantially larger than those reported hitherto. The 2-decade stagnation in heights and the upward trend beginning in the early 1970s confirm the upswing in adult heights born c. 1975-1983, and imply that adults are likely to continue to increase in height. We find the expected positive correlation between height and family income, but income does not affect the secular trend or the age effects markedly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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