Short People Got No Reason To Live

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tallrichsmart.jpg

Economists have long been irritated by the weird fact that tall people have better jobs and earn more money. Many explanations have been offered, various forms of social and individual discrimination first among them. But two Princeton economists disagree: "In this paper, we offer a simpler explanation: On average, taller people earn more because they are smarter."

For both men and women, an increase in height of four inches is associated with an earnings premium of approximately 10 percent. …An American man who is 6 feet 2 inches tall is 3 percentage points more likely to be an executive and 2 percentage points more likely to be a professional than is a man who stands 5 feet 10.

Childhood scores on intelligence tests show a correlation between height and cognitive ability, and this remains true throughout life, they report.

Yet more evidence that Edmund Burke was right: Prejudices can be useful–if short people are being discriminated against in the job market, it's only because (statistically speaking) they're dumb as a box of rocks.

For musical accompaniment to the post (and an explanation of the title), click here.

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  1. I’m boned.

  2. you might want to link to the study you’re quoting?

  3. Correlation does not prove causation. Maybe tall people tend to have tall parent who are therefore wealthier on average. Those parents send their kids to more prestigious schools where the teachers focus on the skills that standardized tests measure.

  4. uhh, is it possible that if you’re short it could be indicative that you didn’t grow up in the best (most nourishing for the body) environment, and therefore likely didn’t grow up in a mind-nourishing environment as well? In other words, I sense this as a function of nuture, not nature.

  5. Yay, another uncited post from KMW! Hey, at least there’s a link to Randy Newman in there, so as the uncultured masses might understand the oh-so-clever title!

  6. Katherine,

    You appear to be new here, but, in the future, you may want to let people figure out pop-culture post references on their own. It’s more fun that way. Plus, there are certain people on this board (those people are, by the way, probably short) whose only joy in life comes from identifying certain obscure, useless references in H&R posts. Who are you to deny them that small, vanishing joy?

    On a related note, Family Guy’s Randy Newman impersonation is one of the best they’ve ever done. F’n hi-larious.

    BTW, I’m 6’3″, bitches. And to all of you short folks, here’s a suggestion to boost your IQ: get platform clogs, spike your hair up, wear vertical pinstripes, and get a really small dog to walk around. Let’s see which of you mental weaklings can get your jollies by identifying THAT reference… ;->

  7. I’m 74 inches of towering intellect. No, let me assure you, science has proved this to be true.

    From now on, each poster must disclose his height. If it turns out that the poster is one of the little people, then his arguments shall be immediately discounted, discarded, and dismissed.

    Ah, the soothing sensations of megalomania.

  8. Oh, and by the way, here’s a link to the NBER site with the abstract. Greg Mankiw blogged this a couple of weeks back. Man, that took me all of five seconds to find, shocking.

  9. Lighten up about the lack of linkage, Timothy. KM-W can’t help it if she’s only 4’10”.

  10. Me is 5′ ate” high. Gud artucle, esxplans alot.

  11. “As early as age 3 ? before schooling has had a chance to play a role”

    Education can still play a minor role, since some couples start drilling their kids before they can walk, but I think Ayn_Randian’s hypothesis makes the most sense. Pre-natal and infant nutrition can affect both intelligence and height.

  12. Tall people aren’t actually smarter, they just have a better view of the answer sheets of the shorter people around them. This lets them pick the answer that is picked most by the smarter, shorter kids.
    So on average, they get higher scores.

  13. Let those of us with superior height endeavor to pat the heads of our shorter brethren in an act of condescension each and every day.

    Ave Homo celsus!

  14. In other words, I sense this as a function of nuture, not nature.

    Sense away! “Sensing” is a lot easier than studying or researching, and you can always get the answer you want: your “religious beliefs.”
    (PS: You’re incorrect.)

    Here’s the paper’s abstract:

    http://www.nber.org/papers/w12466

    Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes
    Anne Case, Christina Paxson

    NBER Working Paper No. 12466
    Issued in August 2006
    NBER Program(s): AG CH HC HE LS

    —- Abstract —–

    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.
    +++

    http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/
    “Social Consequences of Group Differences in Cognitive Ability”
    IQ?s predictive value ranges widely, depending on the outcome in question. For example, when averaged over several years, performance on standardized tests of academic achievement correlates about as highly with IQ as two IQ tests do with each other (over .8 on a scale of -1.0 to 1.0). In contrast, correlations with IQ are closer to .6-.7 for school marks, years of education completed, and longevity. They are about .5 with prestige level of occupation, .3 to .4 with income (the correlations rising with age), and .2 with law-abidingness.

  15. Fuck the tall!

    -5’9″ and bitter. 🙁

  16. OK, but what’s the relation between intelligence and penis size?

  17. flemur, way to miss my entire point, elucidated even better by jtuf. Neonatal and infant care is almost certainly the factor here, but you can’t help if you’re short and missed some of those important words in your rush to try to prove me wrong.

  18. So the coaches that were intimidating teachers with “how could our star basketball player be getting bad grades?” were right all along?

  19. Now I know why economics is called “the dismal science.”

    PS: Five feet, six inches. I always suspected the world was conspiring against me.

  20. Einstein was 5’9″.

  21. OK, but what’s the relation between intelligence and penis size

    It has to be the smaller the penis, the smarter you are.

    If it’s the other way around, then FSM really does have a sick sense of humor

  22. I didn’t read the article, so if I’m being an idiot with this, please tell me. I couldn’t find in the abstract or the version linked to Arts and Letters Daily a couple of days ago how the authors of the study defined “tall.” Is it “taller than average for the group to which each person belongs,” or is it “taller than the average worldwide?” If the latter, then are Swedes and Masai actually smarter than the Japanese?

    I’m 5’7″, which is 3 inches taller than the average for American women, but I’m sleepy and lazy today, which completely cancels out my innate advantage.

  23. Hmmm, I was tall for my age until age 14 when I stopped growing and everyone shot past me. Was I a smart kid but a dumb adult?

    DON’T ANSWER THAT!

  24. I’m waiting for Ron Bailey to weigh in on this one.

  25. I’m only 5’9″ and have a 160 IQ …

  26. F. Lemur:
    I absolutely love your posts!! You act all condescending, but your posts aren’t quite as solid as you think. For example, you deride Ayn Randian for expressing a hunch (clearly labelled as such) that this issue might be one of nurture rather than nature. You go so far as to cite the very paper that doesn’t resolve the issue. Sure, the paper says that tall people are smarter, but it doesn’t say why they are smarter. It doesn’t say why cognitive tests in early years “explain” the issue. And the study doesn’t control for the nurture side of it, and many social science surveys fail to do.

  27. Lamar,

    We’re smarter because we can see more of the world from our superior vantage points. Why else? God loves us more, too, which is why our heads are closer to heaven.

    To add insult to injury, I believe that penis size generally correlates positively with height, which generally correlates positively with intelligence. Which may explain why the average height of humans is increasing. It’s not nutrition, it’s natural selection!

  28. And to all of you short folks, here’s a suggestion to boost your IQ: get platform clogs, spike your hair up, wear vertical pinstripes, and get a really small dog to walk around. Let’s see which of you mental weaklings can get your jollies by identifying THAT reference… ;->

    Evan!

    Bart wants to be Fallout Boy.

  29. Lamar,

    We’re smarter because we can see more of the world from our superior vantage points. Why else? God loves us more, too, which is why our heads are closer to heaven.

    To add insult to injury, I believe that penis size generally correlates positively with height, which in turn generally correlates positively with intelligence. Which may explain why the average height of humans is increasing. It’s not nutrition, it’s natural selection!

    Ah, hubris. It’s not just for breakfast any more!

  30. they’re dumb as a box of rocks.

    that’s funny

    Or maybe they’re dumb as a bag of hammers.

    My ex flame (four long years) was short. And blond to boot. She really hated Randy Newman for that song. And, come to think of it, she was about as dumb as a box of rocks.

  31. I think taller people are “smarter” simply because when they were in school, it was easier for them to see what was on the chalkboard than it was for the short kids.

    Although I prefer Dono Treply’s suggestion that taller people who are taking a test just have an advanage at being able to see and copy off the answers of the other people around them.

    I’m yet another 5’9″ guy, BTW. Seems to be lots of us.

    It has to be the smaller the penis, the smarter you are.

    This is undoubtedly true. In situations where my penis gets bigger, I definitely get stupider.

  32. I was taught in school that tall white males ruled the US because there was a conspiracy to steamroll the swarthier complected short people.

    And now you say it’s natural selection? No sociology teacher worth a nickel would buy that.

  33. Notice the general shortness of the more aggressive historical figures. Really, I think a pogrom is in order. For the tall children.

  34. Taller people are smarter because they ‘stay above it’, man.

    Oh good lord that’s bad. I can’t do it. I can’t hit post… I’ll have my shorter wife hit post.

  35. Apparently nobody around here, including Ms. Ward and her online editor, reads Slate. They did this same article six days ago:
    http://www.slate.com/id/2148759/

    Perhaps each offers something differnt? Yes, Slate author Joel Waldfogel waits until his second line of copy before dropping the Randy Newman reference, “Short people got no reason to live.”
    Either this post was really poorly researched (hello Google!), or Ms. Ward knowingly failed to give credit where credit’s due.

  36. Notice the general shortness of the more aggressive historical figures.

    I think it is also worthwhile to point out that when people are angry or upset with other people, people often say that they are being short with them.

    (and aside to TWC, what the heck kind of school did you go to?)

  37. I thought the earnings disparity was due to the height minimums for NFL QBs( under 6’3 you might as well play Arena League or become a Slash) and NBA SGs ( less than 6’4? You better learn the point, buddy. Or move to Europe).

  38. Old news:
    This is a blog, not an online magazine. As you know, many of the “stories” here are just links to outsides sources. Nothing wrong with that, that’s a blog. Thought you’d like to know that there is a difference, and there is nothing improper about this post, except of course, for the 35th comment. Why that’s you, silly!

  39. The real reason that tall people excel is that they don’t have to spend as much time avoiding being trampled.

  40. If you’re tall and a Democrat, do they cancel each other out?

  41. Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution blogged this study a couple of weeks ago and yesterday in an aside to this post mentioned another study showing that people born in late winter are smarter. Recalling his earlier post on left-handedness prompted him to ponder the smarty-trifecta:

    I can only imagine how smart tall, left-handed people, born in late winter … must be…

    And no, I can assure you that my credulous faith in these studies has absolutely nothing to do with my being a 6’2″ lefty born in March. 🙂

  42. I have a cunning plan to solve the immigration “crisis”. Post signs at our borders that say, “Must be at least this tall [six feet?] to enter the United States of America”.

  43. Huh?
    Did KMW put the link to the paper without an addendum specifically saying that her original post “forgot” the link?
    If it wasn’t there in the first place, it’s kinda bad form to now try to slip the link under people’s noses.

    You hear that, KMW, it’s bad form, because no one likes to be snookered.
    At least this isn’t as bad as the sophistry of arguing that I should be happy that Iran will get The Bomb because then history will “get more interesting.”

    Also, it is very interesting that KMW doesn’t have the guts to even mention that she slipped up since that means at least she would be holding herself accountable, so as the Romans would say:
    Qui tacet consentire videtur.

  44. Mothers (5’1″) and cousins (4’10”)who are considered “SHORT” by some people are always SMART! This conclusion was reached at a scientific meeting held in Annapolis, MD today!

  45. The best ‘explanation’ seems to have been already rejected; “short people” consist of two types – those whose height is genetically determined and are otherwise “normal”(including “normal” “intelligence”), and those malnourished in utero or childhood(and stunted in height and brain). The trouble comes when “tall people” try to put them all in the second group.

    Actually, the second type could be a small fraction of “short people” if the deviation is great enough to skew the average.

  46. NOTICE:
    It is no longer sufficient to correct mistakes. Frank A now requires a written apology.

  47. High, I’m just talking about bonehead sociology and other humanities classes required in the CSU system.

    That one prof made a big point out of how tall and white all the founding fathers were and another one harped on the tall and white presidents. It was an impressive case. I think that he was the same guy who used the Who’s Running America series to make the case that we’re all controlled by big corporations with interlocking boards of directors.

    I don’t buy off on much of that kind of stuff. I’m not even sure that I buy off on the whole idea that tall, attractive people get cut slack, are brighter, and make more money.

    I do, however, believe my grandfather’s observation that a good big man can whip a good little man every day of the week. Which is exactly why guns came in handy.

  48. Short people are dumped on their entire lives – it probably starts long before school. I have little doubt that the tall learn their “superiority” at a very early age.

    — Short, intelligent, AND left-handed

  49. So, why did only one of the 5 National Merit Finalists, or the remaining Semi-Finalist in my High School graduating class top out at over 6 feet?

    I’d also like to see the data broken out by age cohort. Average height has increased over the years. When I was 18 I was dead average height for an American male. Some decades later, I am now officially “short” by an inch or two. I expect I’m still “average” for my birth year.

    Kevin

  50. I wonder what the Asians might think about all this. Silly me, they’re SO STUPID and couldn’t possibly understand all that difficult math and science.

    PS: On a more serious note, does the study cover all races, or does it segregate the races and measure height within them? Are the Dutch then “naturally” smarter than, say, the Japanese?

    Oh, and Timothy, how ’bout you link to Greg Mankiw’s blog post, sweetie darling? Link and link alike, I say!

  51. Good to see Princeton economists putting their time to good use. When I was in second grade I was convinced that only kids that could run fast could be popular. Maybe they could look into that for me.

  52. NOTICE:
    It is no longer sufficient to correct mistakes. Frank A now requires a written apology.

    Comment by: Lamar at September 6, 2006 05:06 PM

    No, a slavish apology is NOT required.
    What would be good form is to say, “EDIT: I goofed to put a link to the story, so here it is. Hat tip: ReaderX” Shazam! Done.
    Timothy even linked to the abstract of the paper, and yet she still hasn’t mentioned that she changed her post.
    Considering the intellectual mendacity of her Nagin piece and now this…this is shaping up to be a very unfortunate pattern.

  53. Shaq must be a freggin’ genius.

  54. Isaac Newton and James Madison were both pretty short, but they were smarter than likely anyone that any of us will ever meet in person.

    Also, I can’t think of a good way to work Larry Summers into this.

  55. Shaq may be a genius but if brains were dynamite Kobe couldn’t blow his nose.

  56. ‘scuse me for just hittin’ an’ runnin’, but aren’t jews smart? And orientals?
    Are they not generally height-challenged?

    As a fan of complexity, I enjoy these kinds of inquiries.

  57. “Must be at least this tall [six feet?] to enter the United States of America”.

    “If you are not this tall, you may not go on this ride.”

    Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is not to keep anyone out. Our mission is to make the USA a “ride” again!

  58. I suppose Shaq could possibly not be exceptionally bright since generalities would be true of groups, but not necessarily of individuals. Which brings me to a place, a place in the Salt lake City area, known as “Hobbitville.” It is a community of, well…isn’t the right word…dwarfs? Anyway, they must be the stupidest people on God’s green earth, I don’t know how they make it. You would think being that short would be challenge enough, but the fact that they have to be so stupid, well, that’s just not fair.

  59. What does Freakonomics say about this matter?

  60. Ruthless, as I recall the post-war Japanese made tremendous gains in average height in the space of a generation or two once they started getting proper nutrition. No source cites, just something plunked in a memory hole long ago.

  61. Remember that short historical figures need to be measured in standard deviations from the norm as it existed then. NYT recently had a huge article on the height and health of current folks in developed areas who dwarf their great grandparents’ generation.

    On another note, at 6′ I sometimes feel short, but now I realize that I have crushed my enemies, had them driven before me and heard the lamentations of their women. At least compared to you ewoks.

  62. I can only imagine how smart tall, left-handed people, born in late winter … must be…

    Hot damn! Tall (for a woman), southpaw, and born on the last day of winter/first day of spring!

    If the birth date hypothesis is true, then that may make me either a remarkable genius or, alternately, a pitiable moron — you make the call! (…to yourselves! keep it to yourselves!)

  63. Anyway, the birth date hypothesis makes sense to me: All the smart kids spent the fall and winter napping in a snug, insulated womb instead of wasting the brainpower of their precious early-infant months shivering in their handknit booties and warm designer baby asshats.

    By the same line of thinking, the dumber kids would be born in late fall. At least one of my ex-boyfriends would be anecdotal evidence in favor of this explanation.

  64. rhywun: Short people are dumped on their entire lives – it probably starts long before school. I have little doubt that the tall learn their “superiority” at a very early age.

    I’ve seen a more detailed study that showed the opposite of that. By splitting people into four groups they judged the affect of being tall/short as a child and tall/short as an adult. They discovered that it was how tall you were as a child that mattered. Basically (and I can attest to this from my own experience) in any given situation short children were helped more by adults than tall children were. Short children learned to run to authority when there was a problem, tall children learned that authority never helped them and therefore they became more self-reliant. This approach help them in later life, even if they stopped growing and were short as an adult.

  65. Neonatal and infant care is almost certainly the factor here,
    Nope, you’re wrong again: apparently you’re ignorant of the many intelligence studies involving twins, siblings, East Asian kids who’ve been literally starved as infants, adoption, etc., etc., etc.

    You act all condescending,
    Correct. It amuses me when people have strong opinions on subjects about which they’re obviously quite uninformed. Flat-earthers who think they can personally see everything they need to know.

    but your posts aren’t quite as solid as you think. For example, you deride Ayn Randian for expressing a hunch (clearly labelled as such) that this issue might be one of nurture rather than nature.
    Why should I not laugh at ‘a hunch’ when there’s already lots of solid evidence which shows that the hunch is just nonsense?
    It tells me that the huncher is just egotistical and mentally lazy.

    You go so far as to cite the very paper that doesn’t resolve the issue.
    I went so far as to reprint the abstract of the paper in question; is that not more interesting and appropriate than references to some stupid song?

    Sure, the paper says that tall people are smarter, but it doesn’t say why they are smarter. It doesn’t say why cognitive tests in early years “explain” the issue. And the study doesn’t control for the nurture side of it, and many social science surveys fail to do.

    Many other studies have already addressed and largely resolved these issues (IQ/intelligence is about 80% genetic and there’s no measurable ‘neonatal and infant care’ effect in modern societies other than some FAS-type effects on an individual basis), but it’s not my job to educate you; if you’re actually interested in the subject, you might start by reading the papers at the .edu URL I provided; they’re not original research so as much as summaries and policy recommendations, but they contain hundreds of references to the original research.

    *If* you’re actually interested, that is; but I must assume that you’re not interested, or you’d already be aware of the available information.

  66. Science is iterative. Researchers form a hypothesis, then they review the literature, then they update their hypothesis and repeat. This keeps going until they are certain enough in their hypothesis to justify spending years collecting data to reject or fail to reject it. You cited previous research to back your argument. Could you please link to it so I could evaluate that literature. I did a quick search on google scholar for intelligence and genetics just to read a bit more background knowledge. This abstract (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=9549239&dopt=Citation ) was very informative. It said:

    ?
    Hum Biol. 1998 Apr;70(2):257-79.

    Genetic and environmental influences on adult intelligence and special mental abilities.

    Bouchard TJ Jr.

    Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455-0344, USA.

    I review representative biometric studies of adult twins and adoptees that have been used to generate estimates of genetic and environmental influence on intelligence (IQ) and special mental abilities. The various studies converge on a heritability estimate between 0.60 and 0.80 for IQ. Estimates of common environmental influence from the same studies are near zero. Studies of twins reared together and studies of unrelated individuals reared together yield sizable estimates of common family environmental influence in childhood but also demonstrate that this influence dissipates with age and approaches zero in adulthood. Twin studies of the major special mental abilities (verbal, spatial, perceptual speed and accuracy, memory) yield heritability estimates of about 0.50 and modest estimates of common environmental influence.
    ?

    I guess 80% is the top end of the range for the heritability estimate. Although a more time consuming literature review could prove otherwise.

  67. For a nice lay review of the issue you can go here.

    http://www.wilderdom.com/personality/L4-1IntelligenceNatureVsNurture.html

    It would indicate that Mr. F Le Mur is a little too pesimistic regarding the role of environment, but genetics is clearly the biggest factor.

    ” Herrstein and Murray (1994) argue that low intelligence causes low SES, rather than the other way around. So, according to these authors, while SES is correlated with IQ, it should be considered a consequence rather than a cause.

    However, adoption studies seem to indicate that SES has a strong, causal effect on intelligence, e.g.:

    “Well-controlled adoption studies done in France have found that transferring an infant from a family having low socioeconomic status (SES) to a home where parents have high SES improves childhood IQ scores by 12 to 16 points or about one standard deviation, which is considered a large effect size in psychological research.” Wahlsten (1997, p. 76).

    Several recent US studies have demonstrated improvements in children’s IQ’s by improving the lives of infants in disadvantaged circumstances.
    These studies employed random assignment of children and families to treatment and control conditions.

    These studies selected families with:
    ? low parental IQ
    ? low parental education
    ? minimal financial resources

    Experimental group received:
    ? enriched, educational day care outside the home every weekday from 3 months to start of schooling

    Control group received:
    ? nutritional supplements and pediatric medical care or crisis intervention but no educational day care

    Even though the children returned to their home environment every day and spent holidays and weekends with their families (mostly unemployed, single mothers) in poverty-stricken neighbourhoods, there were large gains in IQ; almost as much as in the French studies previously mentioned.

    Furthermore, the mean IQ of the enriched groups appeared to be quite typical of healthy American children. These children continued to show higher IQ scores than controls at age 12 (Wahlsten, 1997). Of course, in these American studies, SES and education were being manipulated. There is of course a strong correlation between SES and education in both directions.”

    One of side issues involving the comparison of races on intelligence is the artificial nature (genetically) of the racial categories used. For instance, genetic variability in people with dark skin on the contintent of Africa encompasses almost the entire range of variability in humans.

    I would imagine the same could be said for short people.

  68. A meta analysis of the impact of adoption…

    http://www.apa.org/journals/features/bul1312301.pdf

  69. Really!! are you people stupid? Is this all you have to write about. I am short and I have an above average IQ. I know quite a few tall people that are stupid, drunks or on drugs. These people think thier the shit though even though they are are on welfare and worthless to the economy,or just life in general. I have a great career and make well into six figures,so according to you I should be dead, according to me you people don’t need to be journalist’s.

  70. What kind of piece of shit is this? The editor must be a very stupid tall dumbass who is jealous of short people to write crap like this.

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