There are many factors that affect someone’s earning potential. While a lot is written about race and ethnicity, a new study explores two other factors. It shows how social biases about men’s height and women’s weight affect their income, which correlates with other studies.
While there are notable exceptions, a man who is short is likely to earn $2,100 less annually than another man who is three inches taller. For women, height does not matter (except in basketball, gymnastics and such) for earning potential. However, women who are overweight earn less than thinner peers. It does not have to be a lot of excess weight, either. A mere 14 extra pounds leads to $2,100 less in income on average.
While this phenomenon has been documented in the past, earlier studies used mostly observational data. This study, which is in the March 8 issue of the British Medical Journal, looked into the individual’s genetic predisposition for height and weight and their education, job status and other factors.
While social biases could be to blame, the income vs. physical attributes could have many causes. Not meeting cultural expectations or norms could lead a shorter male or heavier women to have a poor self-image or suffer from depression, which would logically affect how successful they are. Likewise, poorer people tend to have less nutritious, balanced diets. That affects physical development, stunting growth and leading to more obesity.
To separate nature versus nurture, the study team used genetic data from the United Kingdom’s Biobank which would show the tendencies before birth that would lead to their socioeconomic futures. British researchers examined genetic information that had been gathered on almost 120,000 white adults between the ages of 37 and 73. They compared 400 genetic variations that impact height and weight with various measures of data collected on their socioeconomic status, such as education, job class and household income.
They looked at the genetic markers that indicate that someone will be tall or short, regardless of nutritional or environmental factors. The researchers found that men whose genes indicate they are likely to be tall earn about $4,175 a year more than those likely to be short.
Furthermore, for women whose genes show a predisposition to having a higher body mass index (BMI) earned about $2,684 less than those without the predisposition. (For men, genetic weight tendencies had no discernable correlation with income.) This implies that a cycle of lower earning would be hard to break for a female with parents and grandparents who had weight problems.
The researchers also found that those with genetic predispositions to higher BMIs typically left school earlier than those whose genetic makeup indicated they would be thinner. In addition, they wound up in professions requiring less in the way of skills.
Both men and women who have genes showing a tendency to be taller typically stayed in school longer. Additionally, they wound up in more professional fields.
The news that men’s height and women’s weight affect their annual income is depressing, particularly for those who are shorter males and heavier women. The tendencies to be heavy many be addressable, but height? There are notable exceptions, particularly in Hollywood, to the height report. However, the reality is that the average height of Fortune 500 CEOs is 6 feet tall and the average height of men in American is 5 feet 9 inches.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
Washington Post: Large-scale study: Short men and overweight women get a raw deal in life
Daily Mail: Genetics study finds shorter men and overweight women earn less
U.S. News and World Report: Short Men, Heavy Women at Lifelong Disadvantage?
Photo by Pastorius – Creative Commons license