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## Anthropometrics: The Intersection of Economics and Human Biology

Anthropometrics is a research program that explores the extent to which economic processes affect human biological processes using height and weight as markers. This agenda differs from health economics in the sense that instead of studying diseases or longevity, macro manifestations of well-being, it focuses on cellular-level processes that determine the extent to which the organism thrives in its socio-economic and epidemiological environment. Thus, anthropometric indicators are used as a proxy measure for the biological standard of living as complements to conventional measures based on monetary units. Using physical stature as a marker, we enabled the profession to learn about the well-being of children and youth for whom market-generated monetary data are not abundant even in contemporary societies. It is now clear that economic transformations such as the onset of the Industrial Revolution and modern economic growth were accompanied by negative externalities that were hitherto unknown. Moreover, there is plenty of evidence to indicate that the Welfare States of Western and Northern Europe take better care of the biological needs of their citizens than the market-oriented health-care system of the United States. Obesity has reached pandemic proportions in the United States affecting 40% of the population. It is fostered by a sedentary and harried lifestyle, by the diminution in self-control, the spread of labor-saving technologies, and the rise of instant gratification characteristic of post-industrial society. The spread of television and a fast-food culture in the 1950s were watershed developments in this regard that accelerated the process. Obesity poses a serious health risk including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer and its cost reaches $150 billion per annum in the United States or about$1,400 per capita. We conclude that the economy influences not only mortality and health but reaches bone-deep into the cellular level of the human organism. In other words, the economy is inextricably intertwined with human biological processes.

## Antitrust Law as a Problem in Economics

“Antitrust” or “competition law,” a set of policies now existing in most market economies, largely consists of two or three specific rules applied in more or less the same way in most nations. It prohibits (1) multilateral agreements, (2) unilateral conduct, and (3) mergers or acquisitions, whenever any of them are judged to interfere unduly with the functioning of healthy markets. Most jurisdictions now apply or purport to apply these rules in the service of some notion of economic “efficiency,” more or less as defined in contemporary microeconomic theory. The law has ancient roots, however, and over time it has varied a great deal in its details. Moreover, even as to its modern form, the policy and its goals remain controversial. In some sense most modern controversy arises from or is in reaction to the major intellectual reconceptualization of the law and its purposes that began in the 1960s. Specifically, academic critics in the United States urged revision of the law’s goals, such that it should serve only a narrowly defined microeconomic goal of allocational efficiency, whereas it had traditionally also sought to prevent accumulation of political power and to protect small firms, entrepreneurs, and individual liberty. While those critics enjoyed significant success in the United States, and to a somewhat lesser degree in Europe and elsewhere, the results remain contested. Specific disputes continue over the law’s general purpose, whether it poses net benefits, how a series of specific doctrines should be fashioned, how it should be enforced, and whether it really is appropriate for developing and small-market economies.

## The Biological Foundations of Economic Preferences

Modern economic theory rests on the basic assumption that agents’ choices are guided by preferences. The question of where such preferences might have come from has traditionally been ignored or viewed agnostically. The biological approach to economic behavior addresses the issue of the origins of economic preferences explicitly. This approach assumes that economic preferences are shaped by the forces of natural selection. For example, an important theoretical insight delivered thus far by this approach is that individuals ought to be more risk averse to aggregate than to idiosyncratic risk. Additionally the approach has delivered an evolutionary basis for hedonic and adaptive utility and an evolutionary rationale for “theory of mind.” Related empirical work has studied the evolution of time preferences, loss aversion, and explored the deep evolutionary determinants of long-run economic development.

## Cliometrics: Past, Present, and Future

Cliometrics is the application of economic theory and quantitative methods to the study of economic history. The methodology rose to favor in economics departments in the 1960s. It grew to dominate the discipline over the next two decades, culminating in the awarding of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Economics to two of its pioneers, Robert Fogel and Douglass North. Cliometrics has always had its share of critics, and some have blamed it for the diminished role that economic history has had in economics programs in the 21st century.

## Commodity Market Integration

The literature on market integration explores the development of the commodity market with data on prices, which is a useful complement to analysis of trade and the only feasible approach when data on trade are not available. Data on prices and quantity can help in understanding when markets developed, why, and the degree to which their development increased welfare and economic growth. Integration progressed slowly throughout the early modern period, with significant acceleration in the first half of the 19th century. Causes of integration include development of transportation infrastructure, changes in barriers to trade, and short-term shocks, such as wars. Literature on the effects of market integration is limited and strategies for estimating the effects of market integration are must be developed.

## Creative Destruction, Technology Disruption, and Growth

The origins of modern technological change provide the context necessary to understand present-day technological transformation, to investigate the impact of the new digital technologies, and to examine the phenomenon of digital disruption of established industries and occupations. How these contemporary technologies will transform industries and institutions, or serve to create new industries and institutions, will unfold in time. The implications of the relationships between these pervasive new forms of digital transformation and the accompanying new business models, business strategies, innovation, and capabilities are being worked through at global, national, corporate, and local levels. Whatever the technological future holds it will be defined by continual adaptation, perpetual innovation, and the search for new potential. Presently, the world is experiencing the impact of waves of innovation created by the rapid advance of digital networks, software, and information and communication technology systems that have transformed workplaces, cities, and whole economies. These digital technologies are converging and coalescing into intelligent technology systems that facilitate and structure our lives. Through creative destruction, digital technologies fundamentally challenge existing routines, capabilities, and structures by which organizations presently operate, adapt, and innovate. In turn, digital technologies stimulate a higher rate of both technological and business model innovation, moving from producer innovation toward more user-collaborative and open-collaborative innovation. However, as dominant global platform technologies emerge, some impending dilemmas associated with the concentration and monopolization of digital markets become salient. The extent of the contribution made by digital transformation to economic growth and environmental sustainability requires a critical appraisal.

## Crises in the Housing Market: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Lessons

The global financial crisis of 2007–2009 helped usher in a stronger consensus about the central role that housing plays in shaping economic activity, particularly during large boom and bust episodes. The latest research regards the causes, consequences, and policy implications of housing crises with a broad focus that includes empirical and structural analysis, insights from the 2000s experience in the United States, and perspectives from around the globe. Even with the significant degree of heterogeneity in legal environments, institutions, and economic fundamentals over time and across countries, several common themes emerge. Research indicates that fundamentals such as productivity, income, and demographics play an important role in generating sustained movements in house prices. While these forces can also contribute to boom-bust episodes, periods of large house price swings often reflect an evolving housing premium caused by financial innovation and shifts in expectations, which are in turn amplified by changes to the liquidity of homes. Regarding credit, the latest evidence indicates that expansions in lending to marginal borrowers via the subprime market may not be entirely to blame for the run-up in mortgage debt and prices that preceded the 2007–2009 financial crisis. Instead, the expansion in credit manifested by lower mortgage rates was broad-based and caused borrowers across a wide range of incomes and credit scores to dramatically increase their mortgage debt. To whatever extent changing beliefs about future housing appreciation may have contributed to higher realized house price growth in the 2000s, it appears that neither borrowers nor lenders anticipated the subsequent collapse in house prices. However, expectations about future credit conditions—including the prospect of rising interest rates—may have contributed to the downturn. For macroeconomists and those otherwise interested in the broader economic implications of the housing market, a growing body of evidence combining micro data and structural modeling finds that large swings in house prices can produce large disruptions to consumption, the labor market, and output. Central to this transmission is the composition of household balance sheets—not just the amount of net worth, but also how that net worth is allocated between short term liquid assets, illiquid housing wealth, and long-term defaultable mortgage debt. By shaping the incentive to default, foreclosure laws have a profound ex-ante effect on the supply of credit as well as on the ex-post economic response to large shocks that affect households’ degree of financial distress. On the policy front, research finds mixed results for some of the crisis-related interventions implemented in the U.S. while providing guidance for future measures should another housing bust of similar or greater magnitude reoccur. Lessons are also provided for the development of macroprudential policy aimed at preventing such a future crisis without unduly constraining economic performance in good times.

## Early and Medieval Periods in German Economic History

The study of the Holy Roman Empire, a medieval state on the territory of modern-day Germany and Central Europe, has attracted generations of qualitative economic historians and quantitative scholars from various fields. Its bordering position between Roman and Germanic legacies, its Carolingian inheritance, and the numerous small states emerging from 1150 onward, on the one hand, are suspected to have hindered market integration, and on the other, allowed states to compete. This has inspired many research questions around differences and communalities in culture, the origin of the state, the integration of good and financial markets, and technology inventions, such the printing press. While little is still known about the economy of the rural population, cities and their economic conditions have been extensively studied from the angles of economic geography, institutionalism, and for their influence on early human capital accumulation. The literature has stressed that Germany at this time cannot be seen as a closed economy, but only in the context of Europe and the wider world. Global events, such as the Black Death, and European particularities, such as the Catholic Church, never stopped at countries’ borders. As such, the literature provides an understanding for the prelude to radical changes, such as the Lutheran Reformation, religious wars, and the coming of the modern age with its economic innovations.

## Economic Development in Spain, 1815–2017

In assessments of modern-day Spain’s economic progress and living standards, inadequate natural resources, inefficient institutions, lack of education and entrepreneurship, and foreign dependency are frequently blamed on poor performance up to the mid-20th century, but no persuasive arguments were provided to explain why such adverse circumstances reversed, giving way to the fast transformation that started in the 1950s. Hence, it is necessary to first inquire how much economic progress has been achieved in Spain and what impact it had on living standards and income distribution since the end of the Peninsular War to the present day, and second to provide an interpretation. Research published in the 2010s supports the view that income per person has improved remarkably, driven by increases in labor productivity, which derived, in turn, from a more intense and efficient use of physical and human capital per worker. Exposure to international competition represented a decisive element behind growth performance. From an European perspective, Spain underperformed until 1950. Thereafter, Spain’s economy managed to catch up with more advanced countries until 2007. Although the distribution of the fruits of growth did not follow a linear trend, but a Kuznetsian inverted U pattern, higher levels of income per capita are matched by lower inequality, suggesting that Spaniards’ material wellbeing improved substantially during the modern era.

## Economic Growth in the United States, 1790 to 1860

In the early 21st century, the U.S. economy stood at or very near the top of any ranking of the world’s economies, more obviously so in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), but also when measured by GDP per capita. The current standing of any country reflects three things: how well off it was when it began modern economic growth, how long it has been growing, and how rapidly productivity increased each year. Americans are inclined to think that it was the last of these items that accounted for their country’s success. And there is some truth to the notion that America’s lofty status was due to the continual increases in the efficiency of its factors of production—but that is not the whole story. The rate at which the U.S. economy has grown over its long history—roughly 1.5% per year measured by output per capita—has been modest in comparison with most other advanced nations. The high value of GDP per capita in the United States is due in no small part to the fact that it was already among the world’s highest back in the early 19th century, when the new nation was poised to begin modern economic growth. The United States was also an early starter, so has experienced growth for a very long time—longer than almost every other nation in the world. The sustained growth in real GDP per capita began sometime in the period 1790 to 1860, although the exact timing of the transition, and even its nature, are still uncertain. Continual efforts to improve the statistical record have narrowed down the time frame in which the transition took place and improved our understanding of the forces that facilitated the transition, but questions remain. In order to understand how the United States made the transition from a slow-growing British colony to a more rapidly advancing, free-standing economy, it is necessary to know more precisely when it made that transition.

## An Economic History of Australia

A new world for Europeans and an ancient land for its Indigenous populations, Australia has provided resources that have sustained its inhabitants for millennia. For the past century the nation’s standard of living has been among the world’s highest. This has accompanied the transformation from an economic frontier to a staples-based economy and to a modern, industrial economy over 150 years. Although a fundamentally urban society, it has been the continued use of the country’s natural assets, especially its land, that has underpinned these changes. While reliant on protective barriers in the first half of the 20th century, the country’s ongoing development has always depended on the inflow of overseas capital, an openness to international trade, and an eagerness to receive new people. When these elements have fluctuated so too has Australia’s economy. The sources of capital, trade, and people have changed over time, but a willingness to follow ideas from overseas has persisted. Not every member of society has benefited from development, and long-term inequality has followed the rise, fall, and rise evident in many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations. Although still a leading nation when measured on the Human Development Index, environmental constraints, increased global tensions, and climate change pose challenges for Australian’s living standards that will again require them to transform their economy.

## Economic History of Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i became one of the last two major land areas on the planet to be settled when Polynesians from Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands navigated voyaging canoes to Hawai‘i in the 11th or 12th century. Settlers brought plants and animals needed to start taro farms modeled on those in their homelands and established chiefdoms using traditional norms of behavior and governance institutions from their home societies. Sometime round 1400, Hawaiians lost contact with the outside world and remained isolated for the next 350–400 years. During this period, competing states emerged, ruled by a sharply differentiated elite (ali‘i) and supported by agricultural surpluses sufficient to support religious and artisan specialists and construction of hundreds of monumental temples. Contact with the outside world was reestablished in 1778 and led to major demographic, economic, and political change: Exposure to outside diseases led to a massive decline in the Native Hawaiian population over the next 125 years; integration with global product markets transformed Hawai‘i’s economy; and warfare among competing states led to the emergence of a centralized monarchy after 1795 that incorporated and adapted some Western political institutions. In 1820, Protestant missionaries brought a foreign religion to Hawai‘i, helped develop a Hawaiian alphabet, and established mission schools that brought literacy to much of the population. A two-decade boom (1812–1833) in harvesting and trading sandalwood with American ships overlapped with a 50-year period in which hundreds of Pacific whaling ships visited Hawai‘i annually to hire Hawaiian sailors and purchase provisions and services. Sugar plantations spread from 1835, expanded rapidly during the U.S. Civil War, and fell back with peace in 1865. An 1876 trade treaty with the United States exempted Hawai‘i sugar firms from the high U.S. tariff on sugar, and they responded by expanding production tenfold by 1883, using immigrant labor from China, Portugal, and Japan. Problems with renegotiating the treaty led to a rebellion by a mostly Caucasian militia group in 1886 that culminated in the overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani in 1893. The United States annexed Hawai‘i in 1898 and established a colonial “territorial” government that persisted until Hawai‘i was admitted to the U.S. economic and political union in 1959 as its 50th state. Pineapple and sugar industries expanded under protection of U.S. tariffs and with employment of migrant labor from Japan, Europe, Korea, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was followed by imposition of martial law and the buildup of a large U.S. military presence. The economy struggled after the war until the introduction of jet plane passenger service in 1958 prompted millions of tourists from the United States, Japan, and other countries to visit Hawai‘i each year. The tourism boom, institutional reforms of statehood, and population growth ignited an economic boom that would continue thru 1990 and modernize the economy. The 1990s saw economic contraction as Hawai‘i adjusted to changes in U.S. tourism and Japanese foreign investment. From 1990, periodic disruptions to tourism caused by recessions, security crises, and global pandemics punctuated otherwise moderate economic growth.

## Economic History of Ming-Qing and Modern China

The Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) marked in the long history of China a period of cultural, political, demographic, and economic renaissance, after less than a century (1271–1368) of rule by the alien Mongol conquerors from the steppes. The wealth of the Ming Empire attracted European traders and missionaries with whom foreign silver, crops, and knowledge flowed into the country at unprecedented speed. Meanwhile, the Ming Empire reached out to the Indian Ocean with the largest armada in the world at the time. The Ming rule was ended by a military takeover by Manchu mercenaries who did not return to Manchuria after helping the Ming authorities crack down on a rebellion, an important factor that ultimately dictated the behavior of the Qing state (1644–1911). The main institutions and policies of the Ming remained intact, and in 1712 the Qing state voluntarily capped its total tax revenue, a Confucian gesture to gain legitimacy, which marked a major step toward a withering state whereby the tax burden became lighter and consequently state control over the population and territory became weaker. At the beginning, the waning state produced some positive outcomes: both farmland and population multiplied, and domestic and foreign trade were prosperous. The Qing economy outperformed that of the Ming and became one of the largest in the world by 1800, with a decent standard of living. Even so, a withering state was a time bomb. The unintended consequences of the weakening state loomed large. Externally, the empire did not have the ability to prevent the invasion of foreign bullies. From 1840 to 1900, China lost all five wars it fought with foreign forces. Internally, unrest swept the empire from 1860 to 1880. Imperial order and tranquility was replaced by anarchy, a rather logical outcome of a withering state. To a great extent the benefits of growth during the Qing rule had been lost by the second half of the 19th century. Meanwhile, fully aware of the root cause of the problem, the Qing elite sought solutions to save the empire from within. This led to a more open approach to foreign aid, loans, and technology, known as the “Westernization Movement” (c. 1860–1880). This movement marked the beginning of state-led modernization in China. The path of modernization in China was, however, rugged. It began with the ideal of “Chinese knowledge as the foundation and Western learning for utility” (until 1949), then proceeded to “Russian (Soviet) ideology as the foundation and Russian (Soviet) learning for utility” (1949–1976), and then to “Russian (Soviet) ideology as the foundation and Western learning for utility” in the post-Mao era (1977–present day). With such a swing, the performance of China’s growth and development fluctuated, sometimes violently.

## Economic History of the United States: Precolonial and Colonial Periods

The economy of territory that became the United States evolved dramatically from ca. 1000 ce to 1776. Before Europeans arrived, the spread of maize agriculture shifted economic practices in Indigenous communities. The arrival of Europeans, starting with the Spanish in the West Indies in 1492, brought wide-ranging change, including the spread of Old World infectious disease and the arrival of land- and resource-hungry migrants. Europeans, eager to extract material wealth, came to rely on the trade in enslaved Africans to produce profitable crops such as tobacco, rice, and sugar, and they maintained connections with Indigenous communities to sustain the fur trade. The declining number of Indigenous peoples, combined with growing numbers of those of European or African origin, altered the demographic profile of North America, particularly in the territory east of the Mississippi River. Over time, Europeans’ consumer choices expanded, though the wealth gap between white colonists grew, as did the economic gap between free colonists, on the one hand, and unfree Black and Native peoples on the other.

## Economic Life in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain, 1085–1815

The period between 1085 to 1815 witnessed important transformations in Spain’s economic history. The transition from a frontier society to one of the largest empires in the world was soon followed by its subsequent decline. During Spain’s Middle Ages two kinds of economies, societies and political structures, existed side by side: One represented by the various Muslim kingdoms and another by the Christians. Their frontiers shifted constantly between 1035 and 1212 to the detriment of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), concluding with the conquest of Granada in 1492. Economic dynamism resulted in Christian expansion, reflected in demographic, agricultural, livestock, and commercial growth during the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries and comparable to that of other medieval kingdoms. Under the stress of the mid-14th-century crisis (plagues, wars, and civil conflicts), economic growth came to a partial halt in the second half of the century. Yet, unlike other areas in Europe, the late medieval crisis had less of an impact in Spain, differently affecting some of the Iberian realms. After the second third of the 15th century, as it was the case in Portugal, the economy in the Crown of Castile began to grow once more. Castile became the demographic and economic hub of Spain to the detriment of other areas, such as Catalonia, Navarra, or Aragón, which had been more developed in earlier times. The Catholic Monarchs’ rule and their reforms made Spain one of the most prosperous economies in Europe and the center of a sprawling empire. The colonisation of the Americas and the Philippines with their untold wealth further bolstered Spain’s economy. As a result, most researchers agree that Spain reached the height of its economic growth in the mid-16th century, although in a number of regions growth extended into the 1580s. Based mostly in agriculture, the economy also benefitted from the development of crafts and, above all, trade, generating vast tax revenue for the Habsburg monarchy’s expansive policy of war. After the late 16th century, however, the Spanish economy began to show signs of fatigue, leading to severe crisis that lasted until at least the mid-17th century. This recession heralded a major shift in Spain’s history. Whereas it was the inland areas of Spain that were the most populated and wealthy during the 12th and 13th centuries, these areas were also most affected by the crisis, while the coastal regions would be the first to emerge from the recession. Although Spain failed to reach the heights attained in other countries such as Britain, France, or the Netherlands, an economic revival occurred during the 18th century, moving the Spanish economy beyond what it had been during the final third of the 16th century. Nonetheless, as had occurred in the 17th century, coastal areas developed more intensely than inland, leading to the economic geography of modern-day Spain.

## Financial Economics of United States Slavery

Financial economics reveals that slaves were profitable investments and that the rate of return from owning slaves was at least as high as the return on comparable investments. The profitability of slavery depended on both the productivity and the market valuation of slaves. Owners increased the productivity of slaves by developing better strains of cotton, employing more efficient systems of production (gang labor), and using force and coercion (whippings). Efficient markets facilitated the interregional transfer of labor, and selective sales devastated slave families. Market studies show that slave prices reflected the capitalized value of labor and that they varied based on labor productivity. The profitability of slaves and the availability of efficient markets made slaves attractive investment vehicles for storing wealth. Their attractiveness as investments, however, may have had some other costs. Several studies argue and provide evidence that investment in slaves supplanted investment in other forms of physical and human capital, much to the detriment of southern industrialization and development. Besides serving as investment vehicles, slaves also facilitated financing. A growing body of work provides evidence that slaves were pledged as collateral to obtain credit.

## Financial History of Sub-Saharan Africa

African financial history is often neglected in research on the history of global financial systems, and in its turn research on African financial systems in the past often fails to explore links with the rest of the world. However, African economies and financial systems have been linked to the rest of the world since ancient times. Sub-Saharan Africa was a key supplier of gold used to underpin the monetary systems of Europe and the North from the medieval period through the 19th century. It was West African gold rather than slaves that first brought Europeans to the Atlantic coast of Africa during the early modern period. Within sub-Saharan Africa, currency and credit systems reflected both internal economic and political structures as well as international links. Before the colonial period, indigenous currencies were often tied to particular trades or trade routes. These systems did not immediately cease to exist with the introduction of territorial currencies by colonial governments. Rather, both systems coexisted, often leading to shocks and localized crises during periods of global financial uncertainty. At independence, African governments had to contend with a legacy of financial underdevelopment left from the colonial period. Their efforts to address this have, however, been shaped by global economic trends. Despite recent expansion and innovation, limited financial development remains a hindrance to economic growth.

## Global House Prices: Trends and Cycles

On average across countries, house prices have been on an upward trend over the past 50 years, following a 100-year period over which there was no long-term increase. The rising trend in prices reflects a demand boost due to greater availability of housing finance running up against supply constraints, as land has increasingly become a fixed factor for many reasons. The entire 150-year period has been marked by boom and bust cycles around the trend. These also reflect episodes of demand momentum—due to cheap finance or reasonable or unreasonable expectations of higher incomes—meeting a sluggish supply response. Policy options to manage boom–bust cycles, given the significant costs to the economy from house price busts, are discussed.

## The Growth of Health Spending in the United States From 1776 to 2026

During the 18th and 19th centuries, medical spending in the United States rose slowly, on average about .25% faster than gross domestic product (GDP), and varied widely between rural and urban regions. Accumulating scientific advances caused spending to accelerate by 1910. From 1930 to 1955, rapid per-capita income growth accommodated major medical expansion while keeping the health share of GDP almost constant. During the 1950s and 1960s, prosperity and investment in research, the workforce, and hospitals caused a rapid surge in spending and consolidated a truly national health system. Excess growth rates (above GDP growth) were above +5% per year from 1966 to 1970, which would have doubled the health-sector share in fifteen years had it not moderated, falling under +3% in the 1980s, +2% in 1990s, and +1.5% since 2005. The question of when national health expenditure growth can be brought into line with GDP and made sustainable for the long run is still open. A review of historical data over three centuries forces confrontation with issues regarding what to include and how long events continue to effect national health accounting and policy. Empirical analysis at a national scale over multiple decades fails to support a position that many of the commonly discussed variables (obesity, aging, mortality rates, coinsurance) do cause significant shifts in expenditure trends. What does become clear is that there are long and variable lags before macroeconomic and technological events affect spending: three to six years for business cycles and multiple decades for major recessions, scientific discoveries, and organizational change. Health-financing mechanisms, such as employer-based health insurance, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) are seen to be both cause and effect, taking years to develop and affecting spending for decades to come.