Wage Gaps: Height vs Gender vs Race
Both the race wage gap and gender wage gap are well known and accepted as fact. While some may debate the amount of these gaps, many studies have demonstrated that there is a significant difference in pay between men and women and between white and non-white workers, even when controlling for other factors. But few people are aware of the existence of the height wage gap, which is just as significant as the gender and race wage gaps.
In fact, the height wage gap has an independent effect on wages, and the interplay between the different types of wage gaps is quite interesting.
I conducted an informal study to evaluate the effect of the height wage gap over time and the interplay between the gender wage gap, the race wage gap and the height wage gap, following the methodology described in an earlier paper published by Stephen Brown, Ph.D.[i] Using data maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, I was able to compare wages of workers born between 1980 and 1984 as they have progressed in their careers. For the purpose of my informal study, I combined Hispanic, black and mixed race respondents together into a “non-white” category in order to compare the race wage gap based on white versus non-white. To assess the impact on wages as people progress through their careers, data were compared from the years 2000 (when the responders were in the beginning of their careers) and the latest data set available, year 2011 (when the respondents have been in the workforce for about a decade). The relevant data can be retrieved via the NLS Investigator tool provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics website at https://www.nlsinfo.org/investigator.
Gender vs. Height
The results of the analysis confirmed that tall people of either gender earn higher income than short people, and that the wage gap widens over the course of their career. In the year 2000, when the respondents had just entered the labor force, there was a slight height wage gap for both genders, but it was more noticeable among women, with taller women earning substantially more than shorter women. The gender wage gap was actually upside down from societal assumptions, with taller women out-earning men (including taller men).
However, this phenomenon was reversed over the ten years of the respondents’ careers. Comparing the data from 2011, there is a significant gender wage gap and an even more significant widening of the wage gaps for both gender and height. By 2011, men clearly out-earned women regardless of height. Also, the height gap grew for both men and women, with tall people of both genders earning substantially more money than short people of both genders. By the time workers have been in the labor force for a significant period of time, acquiring both experience and relationships, the wage disparity is even more striking, with the premium for height approximately three and a half percent per inch (or over $2,000 per inch) for men, and two and a half percent per inch (or $1,000 per inch) for women.
Figure 1: Income vs Height on the basis of gender.
Race vs. Height
A similar analysis was conducted comparing income as affected by race and height over time. As with gender, at the beginning of the respondents’ careers, data showed little difference in income based on race. However, while there was only a slight income difference between short non-whites and tall non-whites, there was a much greater height wage gap among white respondents.
As with gender, over the course of time, both wage gaps widened substantially. By 2011, white respondents out-earned non-whites of similar height by an average of $7,500 per year. However, taller non-whites earned significantly more than shorter respondents, showing that when it comes to wages, being tall provides a far greater advantage than being white. For these respondents, average income for whites increases by $585 for every inch of height, and for non-whites by $616 for every inch of height. Unlike the gender gap, which showed that height affected men’s income more than women’s, the 2011 lines in the race graph appear more parallel to each other, implying that height affects whites and non-whites in a similar way.
Figure 2: Income vs Height on the basis of race.
The influence of height on income is clearly evident in both cases analyzed above and affects income separately from and additionally to both gender and race.
[i]Brown, Stephen L. How Much Is Income Influenced By Height And Sex? November 1, 2011 (http://www.shortsupport.org/Research/external.html).