Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes

I don’t know a single CEO who’s short. Go figure.

Link: Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes.

It has long been recognized that taller adults hold jobs of higher status and, on average, earn more than other workers. A large number of hypotheses have been put forward to explain the association between height and earnings. In developed countries, researchers have emphasized factors such as self esteem, social dominance, and discrimination. In this paper, we offer a simpler explanation: On average, taller people earn more because they are smarter. As early as age 3 — before schooling has had a chance to play a role — and throughout childhood, taller children perform significantly better on cognitive tests. The correlation between height in childhood and adulthood is approximately 0.7 for both men and women, so that tall children are much more likely to become tall adults. As adults, taller individuals are more likely to select into higher paying occupations that require more advanced verbal and numerical skills and greater intelligence, for which they earn handsome returns. Using four data sets from the US and the UK, we find that the height premium in adult earnings can be explained by childhood scores on cognitive tests. Furthermore, we show that taller adults select into occupations that have higher cognitive skill requirements and lower physical skill demands.

12 Responses to Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes

  1. Sam Kaufman says:

    Very, very interesting paper. Thanks for sharing it. Though I’d guess that you do know people both smarter and shorter than some CEOs.

  2. PRoales says:

    Our governor here in Indiana is one short dude…

  3. Chris Yeh says:

    And thus Ben reveals his heightism!

    I’m dating (carbon, not speed) myself, but back in 1988 Saturday Night Live ran a great political commercial parody:

    “George Washington was 6 foot 2. Abraham Lincoln was 6 foot 4. George Bush is 6 food 2. But Michael Dukakis is only 5 foot 8. Vote for George Bush. He’s taller.”

  4. I’m curious (because my own views on this have been so passionately challenged more than once: What do you consider ‘short’?

  5. Ben Casnocha says:

    You know Jackie, I have no idea. I know one when I see one. Probably under 5′ 9″ or something for men.

  6. Justin says:

    Our Prime Minister in Australia is about 5’6 and has won four elections straight. 2nd longest serving PM in Australian history.

  7. More info on good looks and promotions here

    I don’t know Michael but we share the same last name

  8. Scott Young says:

    I believe the average height for an American male is 5’10”, so wouldn’t that qualify anything under that as short and everything over that as tall?

  9. TK says:

    I have never met a woman yet that says she is looking for a short guy. And since sexual attraction is the number one facet for charisma (humor is a close second), height is inherently important.

  10. WH says:

    Short People got no reason
    Short People got no reason
    Short People got no reason
    To live

    They got little hands
    Little eyes
    They walk around
    Tellin’ great big lies
    They got little noses
    And tiny little teeth
    They wear platform shoes
    On their nasty little feet

    Well, I don’t want no Short People
    Don’t want no Short People
    Don’t want no Short People
    ‘Round here

    Short People are just the same
    As you and I
    (A Fool Such As I)
    All men are brothers
    Until the day they die
    (It’s A Wonderful World)

    Short People got nobody
    Short People got nobody
    Short People got nobody
    To love

    They got little baby legs
    That stand so low
    You got to pick ’em up
    Just to say hello
    They got little cars
    That go beep, beep, beep
    They got little voices
    Goin’ peep, peep, peep
    They got grubby little fingers
    And dirty little minds

    They’re gonna get you every time
    Well, I don’t wand no Short People
    Don’t want no Short People
    Don’t want no Short People
    ‘Round here

    (5’11”) Randy Newman
    Short People

  11. Sean says:

    TK, I’d say there are shorter women out there who might seek out shorter men. They’d still prefer that the men are taller than they are, but only slightly, rather than towering over them.

    I realize you’ve only stated you haven’t met any of these women, but I’m making a more general statement that they are likely out there in the world.

  12. randy says:

    Two words for short CEO: Jack Welch


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