Holland's growth spurt began only in the mid-eighteen-hundreds, Drukker found, when its first liberal democracy was established. Before 1850, the country grew rich off its colonies, but the wealth stayed in the hands of the wealthy, and the average citizen shrank. After 1850, height and income suddenly fell into lockstep: when incomes went up, heights went up (after a predictable lag time), and always to the same degree. "I thought I must have made an error," Drukker said. "I must have correlated one of the variables with itself." He hadn;t. Holland, like the rest of Northern Europe, had simply managed to spread its prosperity around. These days, Dutch heights no longer keep pace with the economy. ("We can't grow to four metres just because our income quadruples," Drukker says.) But the essential equation is the same: when the G.N.P. grows, everyone grows.
As America's rich and poor drift further apart, its growth curve may be headed in the opposite direction, Komlos and others say. The eight million Americans without a job, the forty million without health insurance, the thirty-five million who live below the poverty line are surely having trouble measuring up. And they're not alone. As more and more Americans turn to a fast-food diet, its effects may be creeping up the social ladder, so that even the wealthy are growing wider rather than taller. "I've seen a similar thing in Guatemala," Bogin says. "The rich kids are taken care of by poor maids, so they catch the same diseases. When they go out on the street, they eat the same street food. They may get antibiotics, but they're still going to get exposed.
For the record, the average male Netherlander is 187 cm. The average male Australian passed that in 2000 and should reach 193 by 2060. Apparently the US uses average height as a measure of public health so their average height of 176.5 is an alarming stat. The stats are adjusted for immigration. We must be doing something right.
While I am on the subject of anthropometrics, I advise you not to look at this vulgar and offensive link under any circumstances.