The height premium
From “The Effect of Physical Height on Workplace Success and Income,” Journal of Applied Psychology, 2004:
In this article, the authors propose a theoretical model of the relationship between physical height and career success. We then test several linkages in the model based on a meta-analysis of the literature, with results indicating that physical height is significantly related to measures of social esteem (p = .41), leader emergence (p = .24), and performance (p = .18). Height was somewhat more strongly related to success for men (p = .29) than for women (p = .21), although this difference was not significant. Finally, given that almost no research has examined the relationship between individuals’ physical height and their incomes, we present four large-sample studies (total N = 8,590) showing that height is positively related to income (β = .26) after controlling for sex, age, and weight.
[T]aller individuals are judged as being more persuasive (Young & French, 1996), more attractive as mates (Freedman, 1979; Harrison & Saeed, 1977; Lerner & Moore, 1974), and more likely to emerge as a leader of other people (Higham & Carment, 1992; Stogdill, 1948). Indeed, on the latter point, not since 1896 have U.S. citizens elected a President whose height was below average; William McKinley at 5 ft 7 in. (1.7 m) was ridiculed in the press as a “little boy”.
Kurtz (1969) found that the majority of recruiters (78%) believed that salespersons of above average height were more impressive to customers than shorter salespersons. Lester and Sheehan (1980) found that supervisors expected short police officers to receive more complaints, cause more disciplinary problems, and engender poorer morale than taller police officers.
Obviously, height and weight are correlated, and yet they may exert effects in opposite directions. Whereas there are many rea- sons to believe that height has positive effects on status-oriented variables (Roberts & Herman, 1986), weight may have the oppo- site effect. In reviewing the literature, Roehling (1999) concluded, “Overall, the evidence of consistent, significant discrimination against overweight employees is sobering. Evidence of discrimi- nation is found at virtually every stage of the employment cycle” (p. 982). Because failure to distinguish between height and weight “naturally confounds the interpretation of any effects observed” (Roberts & Herman, 1986, p. 114), the individual effects of height and weight need to be isolated.
From “Height, health and income in the U.S., 1984-2005,” Economics and Human Biology, 2008:
Results at mean values for males indicate that being 10cm taller is associated with a 14-47% increase in obesity, an 8-13% reduction in cholesterol prevalence, and a $1874-2306 income premium. For females, results indicate that being 10cm taller is associated with an 8-18% reduction in cholesterol, a 14% reduction in diabetes for white females, and an $891-2243 earnings premium.
From Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink:
I polled about half of the companies on the Fortune 500 list–the largest corporations in the United States–asking each company questions about its CEO. The heads of big companies are, as I’m sure comes as no surprise to anyone, overwhelmingly white men, which undoubtedly reflects some kind of implicit bias. But they are also virtually all tall: In my sample, I found that on average CEOs were just a shade under six feet. Given that the average American male is 5’9″ that means that CEOs, as a group, have about three inches on the rest of their sex. But this statistic actually understates matters. In the U.S. population, about 14.5 percent of all men are six feet or over. Among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that number is 58 percent. Even more strikingly, in the general American population, 3.9 percent of adult men are 6’2″ or taller. Among my CEO sample, 30 percent were 6’2″ or taller. The lack of women or minorities among the top executive ranks at least has a plausible explanation. For years, for a number of reasons having to do with discrimination and cultural patterns, there simply weren’t a lot of women and minorities entering the management ranks of American corporations. So today, when boards of directors look for people with the necessary experience to be candidates for top positions, they can argue somewhat plausibly that there aren’t a lot of women and minorities in the executive pipeline. But this is simply not true of short people.
From “Stature and status: Height, ability, and labor market outcomes,” Journal of Political Economy, 2008:
The well-known association between height and earnings is often thought to reflect factors such as self esteem, social dominance, and discrimination. We offer a simpler explanation: height is positively associated with cognitive ability, which is rewarded in the labor market. Using data from the US and the UK, we show that taller children have higher average cognitive test scores, and that these test scores explain a large portion of the height premium in earnings. Children who have higher test scores also experience earlier adolescent growth spurts, so that height in adolescence serves as a marker of cognitive ability.