Height and Success: Does it pay to be tall?

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Surely you have heard this before: tall people tend to earn more money and ascend higher professionally than their shorter counterparts. Depending on who you ask, each extra inch of height above average earns you about $750-$1000 extra per year! Does that mean if I sit up taller and straighter, I’ll earn more money?  The answer seems to be “Yes! And….no.”

Malcolm Gladwell, author of BlinkOutliers, and several other fun pop-psychology/sociology books and articles, surmises that we, “…automatically associate leadership ability with imposing physical stature,” (excerpt from Blink). While I’m sure that plays a role, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania posit (or, rather, “conclude after rigorous sociological and statistical analysis”) another theory:  it is actually one’s height in high school that determines earning power, regardless of one’s current height! Put more simply, if you were short in high school, you’ll earn like a short person, even if you grew after that.  Their explanation for this phenomenon has to do more with self-esteem than others’ perceptions of what a leader looks like.

Considering high school is such a pivotal time in our emotional growth, one’s height at that time can have a dramatic effect on how one sees oneself–if you have success influencing others (either by using your stature or self-confidence) in high school, that will lead to a greater sense of your own leadership potential, as well as making you more likely to join groups, clubs, and sports (another powerful indicator of future success).

One side note: these researchers also looked at U.S. presidential heights, and found, not surprisingly, that very few of our past presidents have been below average height for our country.  Furthermore, and possibly most relevant, our 5 tallest presidents (Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, Thomas Jefferson, and Franklin Roosevelt) are described in the article as having “…a propensity to subvert the Constitution.”  President Trump is 6 ft. 3 inches tall, in case you wondered.

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Brad Swan

Brad Swan

Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA): 21st Century Learning Team at Santa Ana Unified School District
I am an English teacher turned 21st Century Learning Specialist. My personal interests/areas of expertise include the law/criminology, "hard" science (especially theoretical astrophysics and cosmology), athletics/fitness, and general silliness!
Brad Swan

Latest posts by Brad Swan (see all)

Brad Swan

Brad Swan

I am an English teacher turned 21st Century Learning Specialist. My personal interests/areas of expertise include the law/criminology, "hard" science (especially theoretical astrophysics and cosmology), athletics/fitness, and general silliness!

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