While researchers have long shown that tall people
earn more than their shorter counterparts, it's not only social
discrimination that accounts for this inequality -- tall people are just
smarter than their height-challenged peers, a new study finds.
early as age three -- before schooling has had a chance to play a role --
and throughout childhood, taller children perform significantly better on
cognitive tests," wrote Anne Case and Christina Paxson of Princeton
University in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic
The findings were based primarily on two British studies that followed
children born in 1958 and 1970, respectively, through adulthood and a U.S.
study on height and occupational choice.
Other studies have pointed to low self-esteem, better health that
accompanies greater height, and social discrimination as culprits for
lower pay for shorter people.
But researchers Case and Paxson believe the height advantage in the job
world is more than just a question of image.
"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," they
For both men and women in the United States and the United Kingdom, a
height advantage of four inches equated with a 10 percent increase in
wages on average.
But the researchers said the differences in
performance crop up long
before the tall people enter the job force. Prenatal care
and the time
between birth and the age of 3 are critical periods for determining future
cognitive ability and height.
"Prenatal care and prenatal nutrition are just incredibly important,
even more so than we already knew," Case said in an interview.
Since the study's data only included populations in the United Kingdom
and the United States, the findings could not be applied to other regions,
And how tall are the researchers?
They are both about 5 feet 8 inches tall, well above the average height
of 5 feet 4 inches for American women.