Tall Stories: Height and Success

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Apr 2, 2010    •    596 Views

A recent Daily Mail article about President Sarkozy’s height sensitivity reminded me of studies that relate height to success.  

But first, some height stats:

  • Nicholas Sarkozy (France): 5’5″
  • Barack Obama (U.S.): 6’2″
  • Angela Merkel (Germany): 5’8″
  • Gordon Brown (U.K.): 5’11”
  • Stephen Harper (Canada) 6’2″
  • Carla Bruni Sarkozy (French first lady): 5’10”
  • Napoleon Bonaparte: 5’6″
  • 39 U.S. presidents were taller than average while 5 were shorter

A 2004 New Yorker article has wonderful facts about the economic implications of height: 

  • The tallest in Europe, the average male in the Netherlands is 6’1″ and the average female is 5’8″. Consequently, homes, cars, ambulances and clothing need to be redesigned.  Ceilings need to be higher and ambulances need to be longer.
  • Taller men earn more.  One study indicated that an average six footer will earn close to $165,000 more than someone who is 5’5″ during a 30 year period.
  • Historically, as cities grew larger, humans became shorter. Economists theorize that deficient nutrition was the cause.
  • Height corresponds to economic growth. When affluence grows, so too do people.

The Economic Lesson

Called anthropometric history, the history of human height has become an economic field of study. Economists use height data to form hypotheses about GDP, national affluence, food consumption, real family income, wages and prices.

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