The Journal of Economic History

Papers Presented at the Fifty-Second Annual Meeting of the Economic History Association

Parental Consumption Decisions and Child Health During the Early French Fertility Decline, 1790–1914

David R. Weira1

a1 Directeur de Recherche, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, 63 bd de Brandebourg, 94205 IVRY Cedex, France.


This article re-examines the secular improvement in human heights in France. Adult heights reflect consumption as children, so the distribution of resources between children and adults, determined primarily within households, should have influenced heights. The intrahousehold distribution of resources was influenced by the level of income and by the calorie demands of working adults. Results show that the early decline of marital fertility in France was accompanied by a small but significant increase in expenditures on child quality as measured by heights. Reductions in mortality, independent of the level of food intake, also contributed to improved heights.