Little research exists on the body mass index values of late 19th and early 20th century African-Americans. Using a new BMI data set and robust statistics, this paper demonstrates that late 19th and early 20th century black BMI variation by age increased in their mid-30s but declined at older ages when worker physical productivity declined. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, black BMIs decreased across the distribution, indicating that the 20th century increase in black BMIs did not have its origin in the 19th century. During industrialization, black BMIs were lower in Kentucky, Missouri, and urban Philadelphia.
nineteenth century U.S. economic development body mass index 19th century race relations