Differences in height by wealth, education, caste, geography, and birth years are examined for men and women born between 1961 and 1981 in India using data from the 2005-2006 Indian National Family Health Survey. There is a positive association between socioeconomic position (SEP) and height with lower SEP individuals being shorter. Height varies across the 29 Indian states even after accounting for individual differences in SEP, with substantial variation in height remaining at the neighborhood and state levels. Among men, height appears to have modestly increased for all birth cohorts as compared to the 1961-1965 cohort, with smaller increases for the most recent cohorts. For women, height across birth cohorts has shown little increase. These results suggest that inequalities in several health outcomes for low SEP adults may be reflected in inequalities in height, which can be used to represent long-term health at the population level. Shorter stature and slower growth among some groups may indicate that they did not experience the improvements that were assumed to have occurred across the population. This study presents a comprehensive, empirical description of mean height differences and the underlying variation among adults in India across diverse socioeconomic, demographic, and geographically oriented groups as well as birth cohorts.
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