Wednesday, September 16, 2009

From the Archive: Why Height Matters

Height (which is frequently not captured in beauty variables) also produces returns in the labor market. An extra inch of height is estimated to be worth approximately $1000 a year in wages. While that's great (at least if you are me), one can't really invest in their height so who cares?

Well, it turns out one's current height doesn't appear to generate these returns. Economists Nicola Persico, Andy Postlewaite, and Dan Silverman show that it is not height today that generates higher incomes, but rather height at age 16. Boys who were tall at 16 earn more money, but boys who were short at 16 but tall at 33 don't. This suggests that height itself does not matter. Rather, adolescent experiences differ for those who are tall and these different experiences generate self-esteem, confidence, or some set of skills that are valuable in the labor market.

Steven Landsburg provides a one page summary of the paper here.

I am curious about whether these findings hold when removed from a UK or US context. Are experiences for taller children significantly better in these nations or do other countries value height as well? Does height always increase confidence, or do cultural interpretations, traditions and values play a role in the indirect promotion of taller individuals?
I wonder if this is relevant when it comes to job positions as well. Are men holding executive positions taller than the men working below them? Do, say CEOs, tend to be taller than the average male height of the company, excluding other executives?
Is evolutionary biology relevant in the sense that it would deem taller men more reproductively attractive, making them more confident and therefore more self confident?
Here is my question: I grew seven inches during the summer when i turned sixteen, what then would i be classifed as?

Also, if athletes are encompassed in this theory then the findings would make sense. Pro athletes get paid lillions of dollars and are generally taller. That could throw off ratios pretty quickly.
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