September 2, 2006


Short End: Tall people earn more because they're smarter. (Joel Waldfogel, Sept. 1, 2006, Slate)

In a new study, Anne Case and Christina Paxson, both of Princeton University, find that tall people earn more, on average, because they're smarter, on average. Yikes.

Before you blast Case and Paxson with angry e-mails, let's look at their method. With detailed data from the United Kingdom, they followed two groups of kids, one born in 1958 and the other in 1970, through to adulthood. Every few years, the government collected information about height, weight, intelligence, educational experience, and, during adulthood, pay. Based on these data, Case and Paxton document once again that taller people earn more. Then they note that from an early age, height is related to intelligence. Even at age 5, a variety of intelligence measures—based on conceptual maturity, visual-motor coordination, and vocabulary—are higher on average for taller kids.

This sets up the study's major finding. While height, on its own, bears a strong relation to pay, when adult height is included along with measures of childhood intelligence in pay analyses, it no longer does the explanatory work on its own. Height appears to matter, when intelligence is not included, because taller people are, on average, smarter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 2, 2006 8:18 AM

Them's fighting words.

Posted by: erp at September 2, 2006 10:29 AM

Going by that, university acedemic departments should be teaming with their school's basketball coaches to recruit their top scholars out of the Rucker League and the Nike summer camps.

Posted by: John at September 2, 2006 11:04 AM

Now erp, remember this is on average. It's an overlapping bell curve sort of thing. It doesn't mean every tall person is smarter than every short person.

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 2, 2006 2:40 PM

The childhood data sounds suspect in that it might merely be touting earlier maturity rather than true intellegence potantial (e.g. my cat walked at an earlier age then I did; how's that for visual-motor coordination?)

The later data sounds valid, but I'd want to see what happens when the outliers - esp the poorly nourished - are removed from the sample: Is it that intelligence is related to absolute height, or to a person's height relative to what that particular person would have been with better nutrition?

[Else how to explain the consistently high i.q. scores of East Asians?]

Posted by: ras at September 2, 2006 4:59 PM

"Short people got no reason to live."

Posted by: Randy Newman at September 2, 2006 5:56 PM

I was a tall smart kid until high school. Then almost everyone got taller and suddenly I was short, but still smart. Over the years, my shortness and smartness stayed steady until recently when both have declined sharply.

Posted by: erp at September 2, 2006 6:45 PM

So, pubblies are taller than dems????? I wonder why.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 3, 2006 2:49 AM

Men are taller and more conservative--smarter is dubious.

Posted by: oj at September 3, 2006 10:56 AM