Height of Male Prisoners in Santiago de Chile during the Nitrate Era: The Penalty of being Unskilled, Illiterate, Illegitimate and Mapuche

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2020-08-28

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This article contributes to the study of inequality in the biological welfare of Chile’s adult population during the nitrate era, ca. 1880s–1930s, and in particular focuses on the impact of socioeconomic variables on height, making use of a sample of over 20,000 male inmates of the capital’s main jail. It shows that inmates with a university degree were taller than the rest; that those born legitimate were taller in adulthood; that those (Chilean born) whose surnames were Northern European were also taller than the rest, and in particular than those with Mapuche background; and that those able to read and write were also taller than illiterate inmates. Conditional regression analysis, examining both correlates at the mean and correlates across the height distribution, supports these findings. We show that there was more height inequality in the population according to socioeconomic status and human capital than previously thought, while also confirming the importance of socioeconomic influences during childhood on physical growth.

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ANTHROPOMETRY, CHILE, PRISON RECORDS, HUMAN CAPITAL, INEQUALITY

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