Rapid change in height and body proportions of Maya American children

Am J Hum Biol. 2002 Nov-Dec;14(6):753-61. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.10092.


Maya families from Guatemala migrated to the United States in record numbers from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Births to Maya immigrant women have created a sizable number of Maya American children. The height and sitting height of 5 to 12 years children (n = 431) were measured in 1999 and 2000. Leg length was estimated and the sitting height ratio was calculated. These data were compared with a sample of Maya children living in Guatemala measured in 1998 (n = 1,347). Maya American children are currently 11.54 cm taller and 6.83 cm longer-legged, on average, than Maya children living in Guatemala. Consequently, the Maya Americans have a significantly lower average sitting height ratio (i.e., relatively longer legs in proportion to length of the head and trunk) than do the Maya in Guatemala. These results add support to the hypothesis that both the height and body proportions of human populations are sensitive indicators of the quality of the environment for growth.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Constitution / physiology*
  • Body Height / ethnology*
  • Body Weight / ethnology*
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Female
  • Guatemala / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Indians, South American
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Probability
  • Sampling Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States