Why no adult stunting penalty or height premium?. Estimates from native Amazonians in Bolivia

Ricardo Godoy*, Oyunbileg Magvanjav, Colleen Nyberg, Dan T.A. Eisenberg, Thomas W. McDade, William R. Leonard, Victoria Reyes-García, Tomás Huanca, Susan Tanner, Clarence Gravlee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Among adults of industrial nations, growth stunting (<-2 SD height Z score) is associated with worse indicators of adult well-being (e.g., income). Does adult stunting also inflict private costs in traditional societies? Adult stunting penalties or height premiums might only emerge when traditional societies modernize. Here we estimate the association between adult stunting and indicators of adult well-being using data from a panel study in progress among the Tsimane', a foraging-farming society of native Amazonians in Bolivia. Subjects included 248 women and 255 men ≥age 22 measured annually during 5 consecutive years (2002-2006). Nine outcomes (wealth, monetary income, illness, access to credit, mirth, schooling, math skills, plant knowledge, forest clearance) were regressed separately against a stunting dummy variable and a wide range of control variables. We found no significant association between any of the indicators of own well-being and adult stunting. Additional analysis showed that stunting bore an association only with poorer mid-arm muscle area. Height premiums and stunting penalties, though evident and marked in modern societies, might not be common in all traditional societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-99
Number of pages12
JournalEconomics and Human Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Bolivia
  • Height premium
  • Stunting penalty
  • Tsimane'
  • Tsimane' Amazonian Panel Study (TAPS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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