How Much You Earn Could Be Determined By Your Height

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We recently learned that, on average, extroverts make more money than introverts. Well, now science tells us that taller folks do better in general than we shorties (I’m not quite 5’2″), in large part because more money correlates with more height.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index daily poll of the US population, taller people live better lives, at least on average. They evaluate their lives more favorably, and they are more likely to report a range of positive emotions such as enjoyment and happiness. They are also less likely to report a range of negative experiences, like sadness, and physical pain, though they are more likely to experience stress and anger, and if they are women, to worry. These findings cannot be attributed to different demographic or ethnic characteristics of taller people, but are almost entirely explained by the positive association between height and both income and education, both of which are positively linked to better lives.

Richer people grow up to be taller and then, as CNN explains, being taller, they make more money. Sounds fair! 

For decades, social scientists have studied what is referred to as the “height premium” — the increased earnings that, on average, taller people receive.

A 2001 study by Nicola Persico, Andrew Postlewaite and Dan Silverman of the University of Pennsylvania, found that it’s the height a person had as a teenager that matters when it comes to bringing home the bacon as an adult.

“Two adults of the same age and height who were different heights at age 16 are treated differently on the labor market,” Persico, Postlewaite and Silverman concluded. “The person who was taller as a teen earns more.”

“Those who were relatively short when young,” they continued, “were less likely to participate in social activities associated with the accumulation of productive skills and attributes, and report lower self-esteem.”

What, you mean like sports? That would make a certain amount of sense, I suppose. If taller teenagers play sports and so develop better self-esteem, perhaps that makes them more self-assured and competitive and more likely to go into Business School?

Here’s the nitty gritty:

A 2004 study by psychologist Timothy A. Judge, Ph.D., of the University of Florida, and researcher Daniel M. Cable, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, found that every inch of height amounts to a salary increase of about $789 per year (the study controlled for gender, weight and age).

By this calculation, someone who is 6 feet tall earns $5,525 more annually than someone who is 5 feet, 6 inches. Over the course of a career, of course, those numbers can really add up.

Yes, rather.

I wonder whether this has changed in the past ten years, though, with the startling rise of Silicon Valley as a money-making force. After all, coders and software engineers aren’t known for being giants; Mark Zuckerberg is only around 5’8″ or 5’9″, as is his FB co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. Sergey Brin is 5’8″, Larry Page is 5’11”, and Bill Gates is only 5’10”. All of those heights are within the realm of average.

There are plenty of billionaires and CEOs who tower over the rest of us, of course: Larry Ellison, is 6’3″, as is eccentric Google exec Eric Schmidt. Likewise, female CEOs — like Indra Nooyi and Marissa Mayer, both 5’9″ — tend to be significantly taller than average for women. There’s some evolutionary biology stuff at play here: tall people stand out; we literally look up to them. They can appear more confident, smarter, and so we are likely to have faith in their abilities. That is why, pundits speculate, we Americans so often elect the taller of the candidates running for President.

But what we might really be reacting to and investing in is the fact that tall people are the products of a) good genes, and b) a careful upbringing by affluent parents.

What factors go into making a person tall as a toddler and then as a teenager? Mostly genetics with some environmental factors thrown in. WikiHow explains.

There might not be a lot you can do to increase your height, but you can take several steps to make sure your natural height isn’t shortened by environmental influences. Drugs and alcohol are both thought to contribute to stunted growth if they’re ingested while you’re young, and malnutrition can keep you from reaching your full height, as well.

Anabolic steroids inhibit bone growth in young children and teens, along with lowering sperm count, decreasing breast size, elevating blood pressure and putting you at higher risk of heart attack. Children and teens who suffer from asthma and use inhalers that dispense small doses of the steroid budesonide are, on average, half an inch shorter than those not treated with steroids.

Asthma, like malnutrition, is strongly correlated with poverty, since poorer neighborhoods are often afflicted with bad air and other environmental toxins. Similarly, less affluent people are more likely to smoke, so their children are more likely to be exposed to, and potentially harmed by their exposure to cigarettes.

In other words, then, to reach your full height potential, have good genes to start with and then be born to middle class or rich parents who will encourage you to sleep, feed you nutritious food, including high-quality protein and fresh, vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, and who won’t smoke around you or expose you to regular doses of smog.

The Atlantic concurs, in an informative article about how human beings in general got so much taller over the 20th century:

While about 80 percent of height is determined by genes, auxologists (those are height scientists) now believe that nutrition and sanitation determine much of the rest. …

“If Joe is taller than Jack, it’s probably because his parents are taller. But if the average Norwegian is taller than the average Nigerian it’s because Norwegians live healthier lives.”

Your childhood environment can give you (or take away) three or four inches. A lack of nutrient-rich food and clean water explains why stunting is prevalent among children in developing countries. Studies of North Koreans found that those born after the country was divided in two were about two inches shorter than their counterparts in the South. …

When Barry Bogin, an anthropologist at Temple University, measured the heights of children from the Maya ethnic group, he found that Maya refugee children growing up in the United States were about four inches taller than Maya children who were still living in their native Guatemala. He chalked up the difference to America’s superior nutrition and healthcare.

Imagine how much taller they — and we — could be if America’s nutrition and healthcare were on par with Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

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