October 18, 2003
Tall People Make More Money But Higher IQs Matter More

It should come as no surprise that people are biased in favor of tall people and that this translates into economic advantages.

Short people may be short-changed when it comes to salary, status and respect, according to a University of Florida study that found tall people earn considerably more money throughout their lives.

"Height matters for career success," said Timothy Judge, a UF management professor whose research is scheduled to be published in the spring issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology. "These findings are troubling in that, with a few exceptions such as professional basketball, no one could argue that height is an essential ability required for job performance nor a bona fide occupational qualification."

Judge and Daniel Cable, a business professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill, analyzed the results of four large-scale research studies - three in the United States and one in Great Britain - which followed thousands of participants from childhood to adulthood, examining details of their work and personal lives.

Judge's study, which controlled for gender, weight and age, found that mere inches cost thousands of dollars. Each inch in height amounted to about $789 more a year in pay, the study found. So someone who is 7 inches taller - say 6 feet versus 5 feet 5 inches - would be expected to earn $5,525 more annually, he said.

"If you take this over the course of a 30-year career and compound it, we're talking about literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of earnings advantage that a tall person enjoys," Judge said.

The desire to assure that one's offspring will earn a higher income will serve as a powerful incentive for people to do genetic engineering on their eggs, sperm, and fetuses to ensure that their babies have the best possible chances in life. The prospects for boosting future average earnings potential are even greater from IQ boosts than from height boosts. A mere $5,525 annual salary increase is nothing compared to the differences in salary that would come if one could boost one's offspring's intelligence by, say, 20 IQ points.

Note that there is an important productivity difference between height enhancement and IQ enhancement: Height just makes some people more able to get jobs or close sales or otherwise beat other people when competing for the same existing resources but it probably doesn't increase overall productivity. By contrast, higher intelligence boosts one's ability to do mental work. Height differences, by contrast, are probably a net drain on productivitiy because to the extent that people judge each other by height they judge each other less by differences in real performance. The economy is made less efficient by judgements made on any basis other than real workplace productivity differences. By contrast, boosts in cognitive abilities will lead to dramatic increases in workforce productivity.

Will people genetically engineer their children in the future? Any poll taken today that attempts to measure public attitudes toward offspring genetic engineering probably overestimates eventual future general opposition to the practice. Once prospective parents are offered concrete specific options for providing their offspring with advantages in height, looks, or cognitive abilities the issue of genetic engineering will change from an abstract moral or philosophical question to one in which personal interests are considered and personal benefits and costs are weighed. Given the enormous potential benefits from offspring genetic engineering for health, physical abilities, and mental abilities my guess is that the desire to provide those benefits for one's own offspring will shift a lot of people's opinions toward support for genetic engineering of offspring.

Another factor that is going to play a big role in shifting opinion in favor of offspring genetic engineering is national interest and the competition between nations. The United States faces the very real problem that China has over 4 times as many people as the US and is growing rapidly. The Chinese are fairly bright folks on average and, as Intel chairman Andy Grove has recently argued, it is probable that the United States will lose leadership in software and other industries to China and other countries. What can the US do with a smaller population? Make it smarter. Of course, China will be able to do the same and the Chinese will have no moral qualms about doing so. Therefore the case for making the US population smarter will become even more compelling.

Economic globalization is bringing people all over the world into direct competition with each other. Competition is getting more fierce and people will become generally more willing to embrace new innovations in order to get advantages over their competitors. Fear and greed will both work to promote the widespread embrace of offspring brain genetic engineering.

Update: A National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper from August 2006 by Anne Case and Christina Paxson find that tall people make more money because increased height is correlated with higher IQ.

It has long been recognized that taller adults hold jobs of higher status and, on average, earn more than other workers. A large number of hypotheses have been put forward to explain the association between height and earnings. In developed countries, researchers have emphasized factors such as self esteem, social dominance, and discrimination. In this paper, we offer a simpler explanation: On average, taller people earn more because they are smarter. 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. The correlation between height in childhood and adulthood is approximately 0.7 for both men and women, so that tall children are much more likely to become tall adults. 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. Using four data sets from the US and the UK, we find that the height premium in adult earnings can be explained by childhood scores on cognitive tests. Furthermore, we show that taller adults select into occupations that have higher cognitive skill requirements and lower physical skill demands.

Therefore the market is not unfairly rewarding tall people just for being tall. Intelligence differences explain average income differences as a function of height.

Increased height due to better nutrition has probably been accompanied by increased intelligence in the last century in much of the world.

There's a lesson here for those looking for egg donors: If you can not find out the IQ of prospective egg donor women go for the taller ones. That'll give you a better chance for higher IQ babies.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 October 18 07:18 PM  Biotech Society

Richard L. Leed said at October 20, 2003 8:25 AM:

If being smart has such an influence on productivity, how's come the American economy is so productive in the face of so much intellectual inferiority? How's come so many ultra-bright people are so incompetent? Aren't other aspects of culture and nationality and political economy overwhelmingly more important?
Also, what does the word 'productivity' mean? There seems to be a confusion in current journalistic writings between two quite different meanings.
Meaning #1 from the American Heritage Dictionary I will call indiproductivity because it may characterize the work capacity of an individual. Meaning #2 I will call statiproductivity because it can refer only to a statistical calculation, not to an individual. Here is what that dictionary says:
1. The quality of being productive.
2. Economics. The rate at which goods or services are produced especially output per unit of labor.
The journalistic confusion comes about when it reports a government announcement of an increase in statiproductivity under a headline such as “American workers more productive”, which gives the impression of millions of individual working people becoming more indiproductive.
The fact is, the two kinds of productivity have very little if anything to do with each other. The procedure for determining statiproductivity is simple: you divide the Gross Domestic Product by the number of people working and come out with a number called productivity. The fewer man hours it takes to produce a dollar’s worth of goods, the higher the productivity of the economy. If a lot of firms replace a lot of workers with machines, robots, and computer programs, the value of things produced may remain the same, but since there are fewer workers, statiproductivity goes up. Whether or not indiproductivity has gone up or down is something that the statiproductivity figure simply does not say, but other kinds of evidence tells us that it is the man vs. machine ratio that is the main component of statiproductivity, not the competence, reliability, or capacity for hard work on the part of individual workers. The headline would better read “American machinery more productive”.
In reality, an increase in statiproductivity may reflect a decrease in indiproductivity. There is no reason for a firm to introduce machinery into the production of whatever it produces unless manual labor is relatively unproductive. The headline announcing the increase in statiproductivity might then read “American workers less productive.”
However, there are many reasons for a decrease in the relative unproductivity of manual labor, some of which have nothing to do with indiproductivity, i.e., with the competence of individual workers. For example, if a minimum wage law makes manual labor relatively expensive, a firm might introduce machinery to replace workers whose indiproductivity hasn’t changed at all. Since the government’s statiproductivity tells us nothing about the causes of the change in the ratio of GDP to employment, the headline might better read “American workers more or less productive, perhaps”.
Here is an excerpt from your piece. Query: which of the occurrences of the word productivity in this excerpt mean indiproductivity and which mean statiproductivity or is there a third meaning lurking here?
"Note that there is an important productivity difference between height enhancement and IQ enhancement: Height just makes some people more able to get jobs or close sales or otherwise beat other people when competing for the same existing resources but it probably doesn't increase overall productivity. By contrast, higher intelligence boosts one's ability to do mental work. Height differences, by contrast, are probably a net drain on productivitiy because to the extent that people judge each other by height they judge each other less by differences in real performance. The economy is made less efficient by judgements made on any basis other than real workplace productivity differences. By contrast, boosts in cognitive abilities will lead to dramatic increases in workforce productivity."

Randall Parker said at October 20, 2003 10:11 AM:


The correlation between IQ and productivity is not 1 but it is very positive. So individual anecdotal stories of brilliant people who, for instance, either work as waiters or, worse yet, work as English professors teaching deconstructionist nonsense and basically providing educational services that have negative value are really besides the point.

Productivity capacity and rate of production are two different things of course. But if you raise productive capacity of a population by, say, giving them all a drug that boosts IQ by 5 points on average then I would expect rate of production to rise for the economy as a whole.

One problem with reports of productivity of the economy as a whole is that if the bottom 10% of the population with the lowest level of productivity gets forced out of the labor market then output per unit of actual employed labor on average would rise. Similarly, if those folks in the bottom 10% were sent back into the labor force output per unit of actual employed labor would fall. So it sure would be helpful to have outputs per unit of labor of subgroups of the larger population. But that seems very hard to measure.

As for your wondering whether there is a third meaning of productivity: There's another idea I use when thinking about productivity: producing new means to produce. People who develop new capital equipment or new techniques for production or anything that raises the productivity of others are having a much larger impact. The people who do that kind of work are clustered at the higher end of the IQ Bell Curve. Therefore a rise of the IQ of people that pushese them up into the realm where they can develop new means of production would have the most dramatic impact on productivity in the long run.

Richard L. Leed said at October 21, 2003 8:05 AM:

How did you ever know that I had those very English professors in mind when I wrote my comment?
There is nothing unreasonable about your speculation that if the IQ of a population went up 5% the rate of production would rise, but it is still a speculation. Why not go the empirical path and examine real societies that differ 5% or more in their IQs and compare their rates of production?
Another empirical test would be examine societies have roughly the same IQ (which is roughly true of all human societies depending on how you measure roughness) and ask what factors account for the vast differences in rates of production among them. That’s essentially what Thomas Sowell has done.
What you say about creative people is surely correct: that they are clustered at the higher end of the IQ Bell Curve. But if that bell curve shifts a bit to the right or left as you go from one society to another, there will always be that cluster over there where the creative ones will emerge from. Why have some emerged and others been submerged? Why has there been so much creativity in the Anglosphere (to take one example) over the past few centuries? Or why have the Chinese in emigration been so much more creative than the ones who have stayed home over the past many centuries?
These are big questions that have determined the fate of nations over centuries of virtually indelible tradition, compared to which a small change in IQ seems trivial to me. But I like your expression “producing new means to produce” and it is still a miracle how this comes about when and where it does.

Ken said at October 21, 2003 8:35 AM:

"What you say about creative people is surely correct: that they are clustered at the higher end of the IQ Bell Curve. But if that bell curve shifts a bit to the right or left as you go from one society to another, there will always be that cluster over there where the creative ones will emerge from. "

Creativity doesn't depend on relative IQ. If the bell curve shifts to the left, then you aren't going to get as many creative people coming from the right of your bell curve.

Ken said at October 21, 2003 8:36 AM:

"Why has there been so much creativity in the Anglosphere (to take one example) over the past few centuries? Or why have the Chinese in emigration been so much more creative than the ones who have stayed home over the past many centuries?"

Because people that migrate are not a random sample.

Randall Parker said at October 21, 2003 3:22 PM:


I'm just getting back to you because a Denial Of Service attack on some upstream router caused my hosting service to change most of the IP addresses of their customers. I want to engineer a virus that will reprogram teenage punks to not want to mess with the internet. Anyway...

China: History has a lot of causes. See history books by William Hardy McNeill, David Landes, and others on the whole Rise Of The West debate. I have read several Sowell books and he just scratches the surface of factors involved in determining history. I also would add as an aside that I am positively annoyed at various narrow specialty experts such as Jared Diamond who come along and try to explain differences based on whatever they think is important while they simultaneously ignore the large number of other variables in history.

China had bad government for whatever reasons. That was very important. Though there were other important factors playing a role no doubt. Plus, what are all the factors that determine the kind of government an area has? There are tons of such factors and as technology advances the relative importance of those factors changes. An underappreciated book on that subject, btw, is McNeill's The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force and Society Since A.D. 1000. McNeill also wrote a great review of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel for the NY Times where he basically said that while he learned something new on every page that Diamond ought to go off and learn a lot more history and understand all the other factors involved. McNeill does (or did, he'd be quite old if he's still alive) and has written great history books including one called The Rise of the West.

Empirical tests and IQ: there is a book out called IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen that collects together IQ data from a large number of nations and compares their economic performance. I have not read the book. My big question is just how well chosen have been the various samples of people used in trying to come up with the average IQ of various nations. I have no idea. If we wanted to more accurately tease out the influence of IQ we might need to do much bigger data collection. But psychometrics is so politically incorrect that I doubt anyone could get funding for a cross-country comparison of sufficient scale. Pity that.

Average IQ is only part of the story anyway. Take two populations with an average of 100 IQ but where one has twice the size of standard deviation of the other. I would predict that the one with the higher standard deviation would have much more creative work, invention, and discovery done in it. What matters most is probably the number of people who are above about 120 IQ. But there is probably another really big factor that varies between people: something called Latent Inhibition. See my post "Low Latent Inhibition Plus High Intelligence Leads To High Creativity?" for some details.

Richard L. Leed said at October 22, 2003 8:41 AM:

Thanks for your bibliographical references. I totally agree with McNeill’s criticism of Jared Diamond as you report it. (I haven’t read McNeill, but I will.) As for David Landes, I would say that his book, however verbose and repetitious its style, is very reasonable in its conclusions and seems to support my point that creativity and enterprise and productivity are due mostly to something other than IQ, unless you want to claim that the English for a number of centuries have had more high-IQ people than continental Europeans. Take this passage, for example:

“…all humans today are descended from a common ancestor, split off from a larger hominid genus some millions of years ago. The same is true of the species industrial society. All examples, however different, are descended from the common British predecessor.
“The Industrial Revolution in England changed the world and the relations of nations and states to one another. For reasons of power, if not of wealth, the goals and tasks of political economy were transformed. The world was now divided between one front-runner and a highly diverse array of pursuers. It took the quickest of the European “follower countries” something more than a century to catch up.”

Of course, nobody knows, though everybody speculates, what made English culture develop the way it did, but nobody I know of claims they were particularly smart. Relatively dumb people can get a lot done, even in such unproductive positions as POTUS.

Randall Parker said at October 22, 2003 9:29 AM:

Richard, Isaac Newton was a genius. Maxwell ditto. So were quite a few other Englishmen and Scots who did great things in science and industry. High IQ is a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite for individual achievement in a number of fields. Other factors have to line up to make it more likely for smart people to create. But if there hadn't been quite a few smart Englishmen they wouldn't have had the Industrial Revolution.

It helped a great deal that there was a culture that praised discovery and invention. Isaac Newton had the Royal Society to aspire to. Did, for instance, the German states at the time have an equivalent to it? Did the German states have as many seats in universities where a German equivalent of Newton could get a job to do the kind of intellectual work Newton did?

Relatively dumb people and POTUS: I doubt that president in the last 50 years had an IQ of less than 110. The current one had scores on standardized tests that indicate he's pretty smart and smarter than Al Gore.

BTW, if memory serves Lynn and Vanhanen found a .75 correlation between IQ and per capita GDP. That is an awfully strong correlation for just a single factor and that is rare in social science to find such a strong correlation between two factors. There are outliers in their sample such as China. But it is worth noting China's much faster economic growth than India for many years running now and looks set to develop in a way that will raise that correlation to a higher level in coming years.

McNeill on Diamond: McNeill's review costs 4 dollars. It prompted Diamond to write a letter to the New York Review of Books and you can read Diamond and McNeill's reply: (my bold emphasis added).

Secondly, Diamond accuses historians of failing "to explain history's broadest patterns." I answer that some few historians are trying to do so, among them myself, and with more respect for natural history than Diamond has for the conscious level of human history. He wants simple answers to processes far more complex than he has patience to investigate. Brushing aside the autonomous capability of human culture to alter environments profoundly—and also irreversibly—is simply absurd.

As I have argued here: humans have so altered their environments that they have, as a side effect, changed the selective pressures that are operating on them. Since they have altered their environments in different ways in different countries, regions, social classes, and in other divisions they have created different selective pressures in different regions and among different types of people. See my recent post Human Natural Selection In Taiwan for an example of this.

tjgreen said at October 23, 2003 4:11 PM:

I feel that any advance if American,Asian.or European is a good thing.Perhaps in the future we will not be competing against each other,but against the machine.

TjGreen said at October 23, 2003 5:10 PM:

There is no doubt that fierce competition, between European countries, drove creativity and expansion.There is one thing we tend to ignore,and that is our insanity.If the mother or father of all of us was schizophrenic then our history starts to make a lot more sense.Have you read "The madness of Adam and Eve" by David Horrobin?

Jack said at January 21, 2004 10:48 AM:

intelligence+conscientiousness=productivity or at least accounts for greater than .5 of variance
By the way, you guys read too many books. You'd learn far more watching TV

Dr. John Day said at February 17, 2004 9:28 PM:

Years ago I heard a song about short (very negative) and I would surely love a copy. I'm 5 ft 6 in.

Scott said at June 7, 2004 10:45 AM:

hey im tall and i love it soo who ever is short sucks to be u. ooo and one more thing MIDGETS BITE!!!!!!!

B. Hallifax said at May 14, 2005 10:06 PM:

Hey I am 5'8 and I just turned 14 years old. So I am reading this and thinking about how much more I'll make.

Hello Beach House,

B. Hallifax

Martin said at February 24, 2006 1:29 PM:

Height and intelligence might be mainly determined by the same factor (genetics). If one is born without height or intelligence, he or she will have a lower chance in making it in the real world. If one is able to compensate for their lack of height then one has a greater chance of overcoming biases in the workplace. Intelligence is not something one gains easily, as well as height. These two qualities are mainly determined by nature. The only short people who have the right to complain are the ones who can't compensate for their short height. Height and intelligence are two powers which can be abused. It all comes down to what an individual has to offer to the world. In terms of the emotional or physical.

FADEYIBI OLUFEMI said at April 7, 2006 7:47 AM:

i love the idea of genetic engineering but when it comes to practising using human beings, then it is like playing GOD, which is very wrong,imagine parents choosing favourable genes for their children, what will then happen to parents who cant afford such,this will lead to pure discrimination among people, because i dont think there is a gene that controls emotion or neither is there a gene that prevents death, the beauty about this world is the diversity we have in physique, if everybody becomes tall and intelligent,then we will all become the boss because i dont anybody if want to become the vice. please i believe there are some issues that should not be over emphasised.

Hunter said at August 4, 2007 5:23 PM:

Well how about this, i am a 20 year old white man who is 6 feet and 9 minches tall 6' 9", i hold a 168IQ and i have been tested 3 times. Now with the facts on the table, can someone tell me why i can not find a job? How about because your hight and IQ are not two things that are put on a job aplication.

Randall Parker said at August 4, 2007 5:36 PM:


Maybe you haven't used your high IQ to acquire valuable skills?

adedapo ibraheem adekunle said at November 2, 2007 5:11 AM:

Does height have something to do with destiny?I think they dont have correlation,bcos if someone is destined to succeed in life no matter how short or tall he or she may be,will surely make it in life.

Kristin R said at December 21, 2007 3:05 PM:

I guess Albert Einsteins short ass didn't make a difference. But I don't think it determines intelligence. I just think people are alot dumber today so it's up to the next best thing. Height, looks, weight....

O_O said at December 22, 2007 4:12 PM:


Show me who's the richest? And which one is attractive or tall? Eh, tall people like to think of themselves that way....But if the ones saying this were any bit smart they would observe and analyze life.

Devon said at January 31, 2008 7:16 AM:

I was in charge of Student Government and Co ran school by 9th Grade and was the best student in over 2 counties during testing. Your point here? The taller people were the more awkward and quiet that I remember. I was a big time swimmer in childhood and had no time to over eat. I’m 5′0 and have a 150 I.Q. My brother has a 148 and he’s 5′8″ and my mother has a whopping 178! Wow and she’s only 5′2″!

Marc said at August 6, 2012 2:13 PM:

Get a copy of this study to the Japanese, STAT! Clearly, they're being too crafty for their own height.

evilbaga said at March 30, 2014 5:51 AM:

The Case/Paxson study hypothesized IQ being the causal factor in height/wage discrimination by half of the observable values.

When controlled for IQ and 'extended controls' the height premium drops by 48% for men and 63% for women.
Now, I didn't figure out what extended controls were but assuming it is legit, and the generally accepted number for the height premium is ~$800 per inch, it drops to ~$400 per inch for men per year and ~$300 per inch for women per year. Still bad, but certainly better than $800!

Further there is this interesting paper which shows that there is NO HEIGHT PREMIUM for Self Employed Individuals, but only for Employees.

evilbaga said at March 30, 2014 12:48 PM:

As per the paper above, if short people show **NO** differential in earnings amongst the self employed group, but only amongst the employed group - that is a case for the market rewarding tall people, not people who have a high IQ who happen to be tall.

It kinda refutes the Case/paxson paper.

evilbaga said at March 31, 2014 11:04 PM:

I really am waiting on a reply here.
Because if height played no role amongst the self employed, and IQ is correlated with height, that means IQ played no role amongst the self employed?

This seems absurd to me, and Im a 'believer' in the "Bell Curve".

So I would like your opinion.

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