Speaking last night, House Speaker John Boehner offered his view that “You know, I’ve always believed, the bigger government, the smaller the people.” As the tallest people live in the Netherlands where taxes are considerably higher than in the United States. And, indeed, the other countries where average height now exceeds America’s are also high-tax European welfare states. and Marieluise Baur have researched this issue and reached the conclusion that Boehner has it precisely backwards and America’s high level of inequality and low level of social services is responsible for our relative decline in stature:observes, in fact
Within the course of the 20th century the American population went through a virtual metamorphosis from being the tallest in the world, to being among the most overweight. The American height advantage over Western and Northern Europeans was between 3 and 9 cm in mid-19th century, and Americans tended to be underweight. However, today, the exact opposite is the case as the Dutch, Swedes, and Norwegians are the tallest, and the Danes, British and Germans — even the East-Germans — are also taller, towering over the Americans by as much as 3–7 cm. Americans also have shorter lives. The hypothesis is worth considering that this adverse development is related to the greater social inequality, an inferior health care system, and fewer social safety nets in the United States than in Western and Northern Europe, in spite of higher per capita income. The Western and Northern European welfare states, with cradle to grave health and unemployment insurance currently seems to provide a more propitious environment for the biological standard of living than its US counterpart.