The data shows that for Colombians born between 1946 and 1992 there is a positive trend and a continuous rise in height. For the total sample, those born in the last five years (1987-1992) reached about five additional centimeters compared with those born in the first half of the period under study (1946-1950). However, the analysis by ethnic groups shows different growths patterns. The data reveals that the group ‘others’ (those who do not want to classify themselves in any group) had higher growth rates compared to Afro and indigenous, 3.3% for men, and 3.7% for women.
Additionally, it could be said that, regardless of gender, Afrocolombians are the tallest group, followed by ‘others’ and indigenous. While the gap between Afros and ‘others’ has been diminishing over time, this is not the case with the gap between Afros and indigenous, which is, on the whole, constant, with small fluctuations.
Living conditions and nutritional status are clearly associated with stature. People that have better living conditions are, on average, taller than those in the bottom of the distribution. Likewise, those who have food security are generally taller than those with severe insecurity. In the latter category fall households where all members feel they have experienced hunger because of lack of food.
Although this situation can be generalized to all ethnic groups, indigenous is the group which could have the best improvement in height with an adequate food supply. The results are consistent with the fact that indigenous is the group that presents the highest height potential.
Finally, the initial estimates used in this paper explain almost 50% of the variation in height in the different ethnic classifications. Among the explanatory variables we included gender, access to tap water, age group, and household food security. Together, these variables were significant and allowed us to check the hypothesis of the importance of living conditions on observable physical characteristics, such as height.
In a second set of estimations, we included the height of parents as the best approximation of the intergenerational association of biological well-being. Such specification explains about 70% of the variation in height for all ethnic classifications. This is one of the main findings of this paper. In previous research, such as that of Meisel and Vega (2007), it was not possible to identify the stature of parents or self-classification in ethnic groups, as we were able to do here.
In conclusion, there is clear evidence of the importance of the living condition of parents on their children's height. However, this does not mean that we can ignore that personal conditions are also a significant determinant of height, regardless of the ethnic group of the individual.Source: "Ethnic Groups and Anthropometric Differences in Colombia" by Acosta and Meisel (2012).
HT: Clarence Tsimpo.