Gene Expression

Where are brown people short?

In the comments to my post, Why brown people are midgets, a reader pointed me to this paper, which tabulates and analyzes some data from the 1960s for males. There isn’t anything too surprising in the data set; Punjabis are tall compared to non-Punjabis, higher castes are taller than lower castes. There is a lot of unaccounted for variation. This was before Indian Shining, and the Green Revolution probably hadn’t sunk in yet (I wouldn’t be surprised if the between-state differences increased, while the between-caste differences decreased, in the past 40 years). So appropriate caveats. The one surprising thing is that being a Muslim was a variable that predicted more height! This is correcting for regional distribution. The reason it’s surprising is that Muslims are genetically no different from non-Muslims (e.g., in Uttar Pradesh the highest proportion of recent West Asian ancestry is 5% across the whole population) and tend to socially disadvantaged in India (i.e., they are a Backward Class). The only explanation I have is that Muslims are less likely to be vegetarian or have dietary taboos which constrain their nutritional choices. Tables below the fold….

* p-value at 0.05
** p-value at 0.01

Table 4 – Anthnropometric Survey of North India: Male Height Least Squares Regression
Independent variables   Regression coefficient t ratio
Intercept   63.38 983.2**
Age group: 20-40 0.37 6.6**
  41-50 0.19 3.1**
  51-60 -006 0.8
  Age factor chi-square   125.6**
Social group: High caste 1.21 30.2**
  Superior sudras 0.93 20.4**
  Inferior sudras 0.24 4.8**
  Tribals 0.10 1.9
  Muslims 1.05 20.1**
  Others 0.43 5.9**
  Social group factor chi-square   1434.7**
State: Assam -0.52 8.2**
  Bihar -0.41 9.0**
  Gujarat 0.11 2.1*
  Haryana 1.59 17.7**
  Himachal Pradesh -0.41 5.5**
  Jammu and Kashmir 0.00 0.0
  Orissa -0.46 9.6**
  Punjab 1.55 22.8**
  Uttar Pradesh 0.69 17.1**
  State factor chi-square   1793.2**
R2 0.107    
s 2.37    
Table 5 – Anthropometric Survey of South India: Male Height Least Squares Regression
Independent variables   Regression coefficient t ratio
Intercept   63.50 122.8**
Age group: 20-40 0.18 0.4
  41-50 0.12 0.2
  51-60 0.19 0.3
Social group: High caste 0.87 9.6**
  Superior Sudras 1.08 16.6**
  Inferior sudras 0.48 7.9**
  Muslims 0.88 10.7**
  Others 0.08 1.2
  Social group factor chi-square   394.7**
State: Andhra Pradesh 0.13 2.1**
  Karnataka 0.47 7.2**
  Tamil Nadu 0.02 0.3
  State factor chi-square   79.2**
R2 0.032    
s 2.40    


  1. #1 tom bri
    February 26, 2008

    I suspect you are correct about the meat, or possible milk consumption. During my time in Central America I noticed that the better-off people in ‘my’ village tended to be quite tall and robust compared to the poorer folks.

    The wealthy ate mostly the same foods, corn and beans, except that they also kept cattle and had more chickens running about. So they got more meat, milk, eggs than the poor.

    This is confounded by race, however. The wealthy also tended to be more of Spanish background and the poor of Mayan. There were also a few who appeared to have some African. All purely visual, of course, and the people were pretty mixed so separating race from diet from wealth effects….?

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