Wednesday, April 27, 2011

297. Very Poor Women of Africa and South America Shrink in Size, Study Finds

By Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times, April 25, 2011
The average height of very poor women in some developing countries has shrunk in recent decades, according to a new study by Harvard researchers.
Height is a reliable indicator of childhood nutrition, disease and poverty. Average heights have declined among women in 14 African countries, the study found, and stagnated in 21 more in Africa and South America. That suggests, the authors said, that poor women born in the last two decades, especially in Africa, are worse off than their mothers or grandmothers born after World War II.
“It’s a sobering picture,” said S. V. Subramanian, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author. “It tells you the world is not getting to be a better place for women of lower socioeconomic status. For them, it’s getting worse.”
The study, published last week in the online journal PLoS One, analyzed data on 365,000 adult women in 54 poor and middle-income countries from the hundreds of huge Demographic and Health Surveys paid for largely by American foreign aid.
Only women ages 25 to 49 were included to avoid counting those young and growing, or old and shrinking. Women from Senegal and Chad were the tallest, while those from Guatemala and Bangladesh were the shortest.
The study found that the richest 20 percent of women in all the countries surveyed have grown. Those born in the 1940s averaged 5 feet 1 1/2 inches; those born in the 1980s averaged 5-foot-2.
Those in the poorest 20 percent averaged 5-foot-1, no matter what decade they were born in. Guatemala and Honduras had the biggest gaps in height between rich and poor women; Uganda and Ethiopia (above, where women sorted coffee) had the smallest.

No comments: