5 Reasons Why Women and Men Care About Height

Research reveals how height influences our romantic and professional lives.

Posted Sep 24, 2019

Guga D'Ray/Flickr
Source: Guga D'Ray/Flickr

When it comes to dating, education, and earnings, is being tall more of an advantage, or is being short more of a liability?

1. Women prefer to date taller men; tall men attract more desirable partners. On average, women have a strong preference for tall men. In fact, women care more about dating taller men than men care about dating shorter women.

A study on women and men’s height preferences found that women are most satisfied when their partner was 8 inches (21cm) taller. Men are most satisfied when they are 3 inches (8cm) taller than their partner. Another study found that among men, 13.5 percent prefer to date only women shorter than them. But among women, about half (48.9 percent) preferred to date only men taller than them.

Relatedly, a study about height and human mate choice found that, on average, the shortest man a woman would date is 5 feet 9 inches tall. And the shortest woman a man would date is 5 feet 1 inch tall. In the same study, researchers found that 23% of men and 4% of women would accept a relationship where the woman was taller.

Finally, researchers have found that women married to taller men report being in better health, have lower BMIs, more education, and higher incomes compared to women married to shorter men.

2. People view short women and men as less attractive and less successful. In a paper titled, Height Stereotypes of Women and Men: The Liabilities of Shortness for Both Sexes, researchers investigated stereotypes about height. Researchers asked a group of participants to imagine a woman who was either “short” (4 feet 10 inches), “average” (5 feet 4 inches), or “tall” (5 feet 10 inches). Next, participants rated the women on various characteristics.

Participants rated both tall and average height women as more attractive and more successful than short women. But there was no difference in the ratings between tall and average height women. Participants also rated men described as “short” (5 feet 4 inches), “average” (5 feet 10 inches) and “tall” (6 feet 4 inches).

Participants viewed short men as less socially attractive, less successful, less physically attractive, less well-adjusted, and less masculine than both average and tall men. Average and tall men did not differ on those characteristics. But participants viewed tall men as more athletic than average (and short) men. The researchers state that “shortness is more of a liability than tallness is an asset.”

3. Tall people make more money. Economists call this the “height premium.” More height is associated with higher earnings. One study found that for both men and women, a 1-inch increase in height is associated with a 1.4–2.9 percent increase in weekly earnings.

Another study found that each inch of height is associated with earning nearly $800 more per year. This suggests that men who are 6 feet tall earn, on average, about $160,000 more over a 30-year career compared with men who are 5 feet 5 inches tall.

4. Tall people are more educated. This is likely one reason why taller people, on average, earn more. In fact, some researchers attribute the height premium to taller people obtaining more education. As a result, they enter higher-paying positions.

In the U.S., men in white-collar jobs are about one inch taller than men in blue-collar jobs. In the UK, the situation is similar: men in white-collar jobs are 0.6 inches taller, on average, than men in blue-collar jobs.

And it’s not just men. Women in professional and managerial positions are about one inch taller than women in manual positions. Interestingly, researchers have found education differences related to height even within families.

A study of 950,000 Swedish men found that among pairs of brothers, the taller brother was more likely to obtain a higher education. Men taller than 6 feet 3 inches (194 cm) were 2 to 3 times more likely to obtain a higher education compared to men shorter than 5 feet 4 inches (165 cm). The same study also controlled for year of birth, socioeconomic status, shared family factors, and cognitive ability. They still found a significant positive correlation between height and education.

5. Short men report being less healthy. A team of researchers collected data from 165,606 people in the U.S., including self-reported health. The scale contained five categories (“Poor”, “Fair”, “Good”, “Very good”, and “Excellent”). Results revealed that shorter men reported worse health than taller men. Furthermore, they also found that shorter men married women who reported worse health than women married to taller men.

As the researchers put it, “Short men were less educated, less healthy, had a higher BMI, and lower household income than taller men ... women of a given height who were paired with shorter partners also tended to be less healthy, less educated, and with a higher BMI than women of the same height who were paired with taller partners.”

Facebook image: Kyryk Ivan/Shutterstock