Thursday, August 31, 2006

New study claims taller people are smarter

Well folks, heightism is unfortunately alive and well. A new study by Princeton economists claim that taller people are smarter than shorter people and that the findings justify higher pay for more height. Here is an MSNBC article about the study and its findings:

Taller people are smarter, too, study says
Princeton economists say findings justify better pay for more height
Updated: 6:40 p.m. ET Aug 25, 2006

NEW YORK - While researchers have long shown that tall people earn more than their shorter counterparts, it’s not only social discrimination that accounts for this inequality — tall people are just smarter than their height-challenged peers, a new study finds.
“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,” wrote Anne Case and Christina Paxson of Princeton University in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The findings were based primarily on two British studies that followed children born in 1958 and 1970, respectively, through adulthood and a U.S. study on height and occupational choice.
Other studies have pointed to low self-esteem, better health that accompanies greater height, and social discrimination as culprits for lower pay for shorter people.
But researchers Case and Paxson believe the height advantage in the job world is more than just a question of image.
“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,” they wrote.
For both men and women in the United States and the United Kingdom, a height advantage of four inches equated with a 10 percent increase in wages on average.
But the researchers said the differences in performance crop up long before the tall people enter the job force. Prenatal care and the time between birth and age 3 are critical periods for determining future cognitive ability and height.
“The speed of growth is more rapid during this period than at any other during the life course, and nutritional needs are greatest at this point,” the researchers wrote.
The research confirms previous studies that show that early nutrition is an important predictor of intelligence and height.
“Prenatal care and prenatal nutrition are just incredibly important, even more so than we already knew,” Case said in an interview.
Since the study’s data only included populations in the United Kingdom and the United States, the findings could not be applied to other regions, Case said.
And how tall are the researchers?
They are both about 5 feet 8 inches tall, well above the average height of 5 feet 4 inches for American women.
A copy of the paper can be found by clicking here.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is

Okay, let's get this straight. The researchers explain that early nutrition is an important predictor of both intelligence and height. That makes sense, but then the problem to address would be adequate nutrition as it affects both intelligence and height, not the spurious conclusion that taller people are smarter. Moreover, children who have access to adequate nutrition will still be different heights as a result of genetic make-up. The bell-shaped curve for height attests to the fact that while children may grow at the same speed, they grow at different percentiles. To conclude that the child growing an average of 2 inches per year at the 75% is better off than the child growing an average of 2 inches per year at the 5% is based on heightist notions. The deeply ingrained heightism so pervasive in our culture and in the work force makes it easy for people to make assumptions that short people are inherently inferior rather than looking at the societal forces that lead to such discrimination. There was a study by David Kurtz, an Eastern Michigan University marketing professor. He asked 140 recruits to make a hypothetical hiring choice between two equally qualified applicants, one 6 feet 1 inch tall, and the other 5 feet 5 inches tall, for a sales job. Seventy-two percent "hired" the tall one, twenty-seven percent expressed no preference, and one percent chose the short one. This has nothing to do with actual intelligence and everything to do with heightism. This study by the Princeton economists is reminiscent of Arthur Jenson’s conclusions back in 1969 when he published an article in the Harvard Educational Review maintaining the whites are genetically superior in intelligence to blacks. We understand racism. It’s time we take a serious look at heightism.


At 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I can ascertain from what I've read on this study, the results seem to suggest that "people who reach their maximum genetic height are likely to be smartest." This does not equate with "taller people are smarter."

Suppose that genetically, one's maximum possible height is 4'8 and another's is 6'4. The shorter's parents provide better-than-adequate nutrition and s/he is 4'8 when s/he reaches adulthood. Whereas the other's parents do not, and s/he "only" reaches 6'0. Based on what the links in this study suggest, the 4'8 person is likely to the more intelligent of the two because the nutrition accounts for the intelligence, not the pre-disposed genetic possibility of height.

If you take the research the way that the press-- and in a few quotes, the researchers themselves-- discuss it, it's as if anyone can be raised to be 7'4 as long as you nurture them properly. That's just preposterous.

Kudos for your succinct and articulate response on this study.


At 5:27 PM, Blogger Rebecca said...

Hi I have read your book and saw you on Dr Phil. and I agree with your insight on not changing children for physical aspects of acceptance. I am assuming you are Jewish :) correct me if I'm wrong...what is your take on circumcision, for your son personally and for non-religious families. As strongly as you felt about not giving your son HGH did you feel any reservations about a Bris? We did and so during his Bris there was no knife :-) I just really felt connection with you on many levels of parenting from your books and I am curious. If I am over stepping boundaries, then my apologies. My husband and I also have two children a son 2 and daughter age 6 happy, healthy and petite but so are we and they are just fine and perfect. We also are AP, baby wearing and extended nursing parents as well as conservative CT family. Thank you for your books and your information you are truly an inspiration and amazing!

At 5:42 PM, Blogger Jediah said...

This is the equalivence of racism and sexism in the older days. Like when they use to say that Blacks were inferior to whites and that men were inferior to women. No way. Something is very flawed about this study and you don't have to be short or tall to know that. It's a image and perception thing not a height, weight or race thing. There needs to be an abundance of independent studies to conclude this. Not just one or two by the university or people.


Post a Comment

<< Home