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Our Media Crows: “Americans Not Measuring Up”

From a delighted Associated Press:

A would-be immigrant from Mexico walks along the banks of the Rio Grande in Reynosa, as he waits for night to cross illegally into the U.S.

Americans not measuring up

As the world grows taller, why is the U.S. falling short? Health care, diet may hold key

By Matt Crenson
July 16, 2007

NEW YORK — America used to be the tallest country in the world.

But the nation’s predominance has faded. Americans reached a height plateau after World War II, gradually falling behind much of the industrialized world.

By the time the Baby Boomers reached adulthood in the 1960s, most Northern and Western European countries had surpassed the United States. Young adults in Japan and other prosperous Asian countries now stand nearly as tall as Americans do.

In the 1850s, all the nations of Western Europe stood 2 1/2 inches shorter than their American brethren.

“Obviously America is not doing badly,” said historian John Komlos. “But it’s also not doing as well as it could.”

For several years, Komlos and other researchers have been trying to figure out exactly why the United States fell behind. Komlos, an economic historian at the University of Munich, was born in Hungary, grew up in Chicago and has spent the last quarter-century compiling data on the heights of nations.

Like many human traits, an individual’s height is determined by a mix of genes and environment. Experts generally agree that aside from African pygmies and a few similar exceptions, most populations have about the same genetic potential for height.

That leaves environment to determine the differences in height between populations around the world. Any deficiency along the way, from poor prenatal care to early childhood disease or malnutrition, can prevent a person from reaching his or her full genetic height potential.

Komlos’ latest research paper, published in the June issue of Social Science Quarterly, suggests the blame may lie with America’s poor diet and its inequitable health-care system.

“American children might consume more meals prepared outside of the home, more fast food rich in fat, high in energy density and low in essential micronutrients,” wrote Komlos and co-author Benjamin Lauderdale of Princeton University. “Furthermore, the European welfare states provide a more comprehensive social safety net including universal health care coverage.”

In the United States, an estimated 9 million children have no health insurance.

Komlos’ most recent data indicate a small uptick in the heights of white Americans born between 1975 and 1983. But there has been no similar increase among blacks, a suggestion that inequality may indeed play a big role in the gap.

Now Komlos has started comparing the heights of children to determine at what age Americans begin falling behind. Not surprisingly, he sees a difference from birth, suggesting prenatal care is a significant contributing factor

Many economists believe height is important because it is correlated with numerous measures of a population’s well-being.

The same things that make people tall — a nutritious diet, good prenatal care and a healthy childhood — also benefit them in other ways.

That makes height a good indicator for economists who are interested in measuring how well a nation provides for its citizens during their prime growing years.

Our watchdog media have reported this stunning “news” numerous times over the last few years.

They seem to take particular pleasure in coming up with witty headlines about how America is “falling short”:

Yet somehow these Solons always manage to ignore completely the obvious explanation that immigration from our neighbors to the south is likely responsible for any statistical decline in our national stature.

But of course that can’t be the cause.

It has to be due to our bad diet and the criminal lack of universal free health care for our children.

There’s just no other possible explanation.

By the way, whatever happened to the politically correct idea that tall people are harder on the environment — and therefore tallness was to be discouraged?

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, July 16th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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