His [Barry Bogin’s] research, published in Anthropologischer Anzeiger: Journal of Biological and Clinical Anthropology, considered numerous other examples of migration and height change over the past 140 years, including rural Bangladeshis who came to London in the 1970s.
In each instance, migrant youngsters’ growth accelerated until their average height matched that of their new native peers.
“This is usually thought to be due to better food and health care in the new country,” said Prof Bogin.
“But also, because the emotional stress that limited growth in the old country has been lifted — and there is emotional stimulus for bigger body size in the new country.”
Professor Bogin’s study, carried out in collaboration with Dr Christiane Scheffler, at the University of Potsdam, and Professor Michael Hermanussen, from the University of Kiel, also explored a second phenomenon called competitive growth — where the ruling social classes adjust their height to exceed the subordinate population.
Prof Bogin said: “This is when the mean height of colonial or military migrants, who become the socially dominant group in the conquered country, surpasses the average height of the both the conquered people and the origin population.”
In one example, the researchers found that the height of Dutch colonial masters in Indonesia in the 19th and early 20th centuries was greater than the Indonesians they ruled, and also greater than social upper classes back in the Netherlands.
“This was also the case for English colonial masters in North America,” said Prof Bogin.
“We find that it is the superior social status of the conquerors that promotes their greater height.