Tall people earn considerably more money throughout their lives than their shorter co-workers, with each inch (2.5 cm) adding about $789 a year in pay, according to a study released on Thursday.
“Height matters for career success,” said Timothy Judge, a University of Florida management professor whose research will appear in the spring issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.
“These findings are troubling in that, with a few exceptions such as professional basketball, no one could argue that height is an essential ability required for job performance nor a bona fide occupational qualification.”
Judge and Daniel Cable, a business professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill, analyzed results of four large-scale studies in the United States and Britain that followed thousands of participants from childhood to adulthood, examining details of their work and personal lives.
The study was controlled for gender, weight and age, and found that each inch in height added about $789 a year in pay.
“If you take this over the course of a 30-year career and compound it, we’re talking about literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of earnings advantage that a tall person enjoys,” Judge said.
Greater height boosted subjective ratings of work performance, including supervisors’ evaluations of how effective someone is on the job, and also raised objective measures of performance, such as sales volume, he said.
The relationship between height and earnings was particularly strong in sales and management but was also present in less social occupations such as engineering, accounting and computer programming, the study found.
Being tall may boost self-confidence, improving performance. Others may also ascribe higher status and afford greater respect to a tall person, giving them an edge in negotiating sales.
Height’s commanding influence may be a remnant of our evolutionary origins, from a time when humans lived among animals and size was an index of power and strength used when making “fight or flight” decisions, he said.
“They ascribed leader-like qualities to tall people because they thought they would be better able to protect them,” Judge said. “Evolutionary psychologists would argue that some of those old patterns still operate in our perceptions today.”
The average height of Americans is 5 feet 9 inches (175.5 cm) for men and nearly 5 feet 4 inches (162 cm) for women.