Regional Variation and Convergence of Height and Living Conditions in Sweden During the Twentieth Century

  • Stefan Öberg University of Gothenburg
  • Kristoffer Collin University of Gothenburg


This study investigates regional differences in height in Sweden during the twentieth century using data from universal conscript inspections (for men). We find substantive differences (2-3 cm) in height between the counties. Men in the southern, southeastern and northernmost parts of Sweden were shorter. Men in the Stockholm and Göteborg regions were taller and we find no “urban penalty” in height. The differences in height between counties declined over the course of the twentieth century and the average height increased more in the counties with an initially shorter average height. We find the expected positive associations between height and the real wage in manufacturing and the regional GDP per capita respectively. The real wage in the manufacturing sector is more consistently associated with the county average height than that for the agricultural sector. Contrary to expectations, we find that the men were consistently taller in counties with higher food prices and where the relative price of animal foods was higher. The average height was negatively associated with the infant mortality rate during the men’s childhood in the mid-twentieth century. The association was less clear in the early twentieth century.