NEW YORK — If health means wealth, as the adage has it, then America’s economic future looks grim.

Traditionally, the United States has enjoyed a health premium. In the colonial era, American men were on average 2 to 3 inches taller than Europeans, according to military records, a fact that fascinates historical demographers because height is correlated with longevity, cognitive development and work capacity. Today, a premium is turning into a deficit.

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