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Posted by on Dec 29, 2008 in Science & Technology, Society | 4 comments

Research Suggests Tall People Earn More Because They’re Smarter

I’m skeptical, but there’s data. Taller people average about 1.5% higher wages, and that holds up for both men and women. Researchers attribute about half of that to higher educational attainment and half due to taller people selecting higher status occupations.

But does that mean they’re smarter? I wonder if there isn’t some sort of difficult-to-measure confidence variable that gives taller individuals an advantage. That is, biologically we’re inclined to perceive the taller members of the tribe as the healthiest and strongest, so perhaps we subconsciously give them just a skosh more respect and trust than we would someone shorter. Maybe we’re more inclined to accept a business deal or agree with an argument delivered by a tall person. Maybe taller people internalize that from a young age and have more self-confidence to pursue higher education or lucrative fields.

Or maybe not. I’m just thinking out loud here. Previous research actually supports the notion that taller people on average have greater cognitive function. Interesting stuff, whatever the reason.

Paul Caron also points out that the taller presidential candidate, going all the way back to George Washington, has won the popular vote 66% of the time.

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  • Holly_in_Cincinnati

    Just a reminder that at least three of your co-bloggers are both very short and extremely smart! We are, however, not necessarily well-paid!

  • Elyas

    I’m not endorsing the study, I just report what the tall scientists say.

  • pacatrue

    Who know really, but since the difference is 1.5%, it seems possible that there’s a correlation between population height and population health, which could correlate with intelligence. I have in mind things like the English gaining a few inches since Victorian times due to cleaner air (less coal) and better nutrition (more curries; less bangers).

  • Gladwell’s book Blink attributes it to our ingrained biases, and points out that a startling number of CEOs are tall (and look how smart THEY turned out to be). And of course there was the Warren Harding example–a man who just “looked Presidential” and became one of our worst presidents (now seriously upstaged, or downstaged maybe, by Bush).

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