Identifying the limits to socioeconomic influences on human growth

Daniel Hruschka, Joseph V. Hackman, Gert Stulp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Contemporary humans occupy the widest range of socioeconomic environments in their evolutionary history, and this has revealed unprecedented environmentally-induced plasticity in physical growth. This plasticity also has limits, and identifying those limits can help researchers: (1) parse when population differences arise from environmental inputs or not and (2) determine when it is possible to infer socioeconomic disparities from disparities in body form. To illustrate potential limits to environmental plasticity, we analyze body mass index (BMI) and height data from 1,768,962 women and 207,341 men (20–49 y) living in households exhibiting 1000-fold variation in household wealth (51 countries, 1985–2017, 164 surveys) across four world regions—sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and North Africa and the Middle East. We find that relationships of environmental inputs with both mean height and BMI bottom out at roughly 100–700 USD per capita household wealth (2011 international units, PPP), but at different basal BMIs and basal heights for different regions. The relationship with resources tops out for BMI at around 20 K–35 K USD for women, with growth potential due to environmental inputs in the range of 6.2–8.4 kg/m2. By contrast, mean BMI for men and mean height for both sexes remains sensitive to environmental inputs even at levels far above the low- and middle-income samples studied here. This suggest that further work integrating comparable data from low- and high-income samples should provide a better picture of the full range of environmental inputs on human height and BMI. We conclude by discussing how neglecting such population-specific limits to human growth can lead to erroneous inferences about population differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEconomics and Human Biology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019

Fingerprint

Body Mass Index
Growth
Population
Northern Africa
Middle East
Latin America
income
South Africa
Human Body
North Africa
South Asia
History
Research Personnel
low income
history
resources

Keywords

  • Anthropometrics
  • Body mass index
  • Height
  • Physical growth
  • Socioeconomic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)

Cite this

Identifying the limits to socioeconomic influences on human growth. / Hruschka, Daniel; Hackman, Joseph V.; Stulp, Gert.

In: Economics and Human Biology, 01.01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{afabd259aa224ac49b48ca6be87a6ed9,
title = "Identifying the limits to socioeconomic influences on human growth",
abstract = "Contemporary humans occupy the widest range of socioeconomic environments in their evolutionary history, and this has revealed unprecedented environmentally-induced plasticity in physical growth. This plasticity also has limits, and identifying those limits can help researchers: (1) parse when population differences arise from environmental inputs or not and (2) determine when it is possible to infer socioeconomic disparities from disparities in body form. To illustrate potential limits to environmental plasticity, we analyze body mass index (BMI) and height data from 1,768,962 women and 207,341 men (20–49 y) living in households exhibiting 1000-fold variation in household wealth (51 countries, 1985–2017, 164 surveys) across four world regions—sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and North Africa and the Middle East. We find that relationships of environmental inputs with both mean height and BMI bottom out at roughly 100–700 USD per capita household wealth (2011 international units, PPP), but at different basal BMIs and basal heights for different regions. The relationship with resources tops out for BMI at around 20 K–35 K USD for women, with growth potential due to environmental inputs in the range of 6.2–8.4 kg/m2. By contrast, mean BMI for men and mean height for both sexes remains sensitive to environmental inputs even at levels far above the low- and middle-income samples studied here. This suggest that further work integrating comparable data from low- and high-income samples should provide a better picture of the full range of environmental inputs on human height and BMI. We conclude by discussing how neglecting such population-specific limits to human growth can lead to erroneous inferences about population differences.",
keywords = "Anthropometrics, Body mass index, Height, Physical growth, Socioeconomic",
author = "Daniel Hruschka and Hackman, {Joseph V.} and Gert Stulp",
year = "2019",
month = "1",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1016/j.ehb.2018.12.005",
language = "English (US)",
journal = "Economics and Human Biology",
issn = "1570-677X",
publisher = "Elsevier",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Identifying the limits to socioeconomic influences on human growth

AU - Hruschka, Daniel

AU - Hackman, Joseph V.

AU - Stulp, Gert

PY - 2019/1/1

Y1 - 2019/1/1

N2 - Contemporary humans occupy the widest range of socioeconomic environments in their evolutionary history, and this has revealed unprecedented environmentally-induced plasticity in physical growth. This plasticity also has limits, and identifying those limits can help researchers: (1) parse when population differences arise from environmental inputs or not and (2) determine when it is possible to infer socioeconomic disparities from disparities in body form. To illustrate potential limits to environmental plasticity, we analyze body mass index (BMI) and height data from 1,768,962 women and 207,341 men (20–49 y) living in households exhibiting 1000-fold variation in household wealth (51 countries, 1985–2017, 164 surveys) across four world regions—sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and North Africa and the Middle East. We find that relationships of environmental inputs with both mean height and BMI bottom out at roughly 100–700 USD per capita household wealth (2011 international units, PPP), but at different basal BMIs and basal heights for different regions. The relationship with resources tops out for BMI at around 20 K–35 K USD for women, with growth potential due to environmental inputs in the range of 6.2–8.4 kg/m2. By contrast, mean BMI for men and mean height for both sexes remains sensitive to environmental inputs even at levels far above the low- and middle-income samples studied here. This suggest that further work integrating comparable data from low- and high-income samples should provide a better picture of the full range of environmental inputs on human height and BMI. We conclude by discussing how neglecting such population-specific limits to human growth can lead to erroneous inferences about population differences.

AB - Contemporary humans occupy the widest range of socioeconomic environments in their evolutionary history, and this has revealed unprecedented environmentally-induced plasticity in physical growth. This plasticity also has limits, and identifying those limits can help researchers: (1) parse when population differences arise from environmental inputs or not and (2) determine when it is possible to infer socioeconomic disparities from disparities in body form. To illustrate potential limits to environmental plasticity, we analyze body mass index (BMI) and height data from 1,768,962 women and 207,341 men (20–49 y) living in households exhibiting 1000-fold variation in household wealth (51 countries, 1985–2017, 164 surveys) across four world regions—sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and North Africa and the Middle East. We find that relationships of environmental inputs with both mean height and BMI bottom out at roughly 100–700 USD per capita household wealth (2011 international units, PPP), but at different basal BMIs and basal heights for different regions. The relationship with resources tops out for BMI at around 20 K–35 K USD for women, with growth potential due to environmental inputs in the range of 6.2–8.4 kg/m2. By contrast, mean BMI for men and mean height for both sexes remains sensitive to environmental inputs even at levels far above the low- and middle-income samples studied here. This suggest that further work integrating comparable data from low- and high-income samples should provide a better picture of the full range of environmental inputs on human height and BMI. We conclude by discussing how neglecting such population-specific limits to human growth can lead to erroneous inferences about population differences.

KW - Anthropometrics

KW - Body mass index

KW - Height

KW - Physical growth

KW - Socioeconomic

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85059846220&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85059846220&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.ehb.2018.12.005

DO - 10.1016/j.ehb.2018.12.005

M3 - Article

JO - Economics and Human Biology

JF - Economics and Human Biology

SN - 1570-677X

ER -