Apr 09 2008

Why Mr. Welker is so stinking rich…

Published by at 12:05 pm under Humor

Economics focus | Feet, dollars and inches | Economist.com

Okay, so I’m not rich. Nor will I probably ever be rich. The best I can hope for as a teacher is for successful interviews at good paying schools. But might I have an evolutionary, biological advantage over some other teachers when it comes to getting those good jobs that pay well in the teaching field? I might… and not because of my good looks (hey, don’t roll your eyes!), but because I’m six feet six inches tall. Read on to see why:

The tallest quarter of the population earns 9-10% more than the shortest quarter, according to two recent studies. Nicola Persico and Andrew Postlewaite of the University of Pennsylvania and Dan Silverman of the University of Michigan think this is because height gives adolescents self-confidence and helps them learn valuable social skills. Anne Case and Christina Paxson of Princeton University, on the other hand, argue that people who grow to their full potential are smarter, on average. Both brains and build depend on the care and nourishment a child receives.

Either way, the future looks a little brighter for tall people than it does for the “vertically challenged” among us.

Beyond the observable relationship between height and income, there are some interesting macroeconomic observations relating to height. For example, studies have shown that not only are tall people richer, but wealth helps make short people taller: “Earning enough to buy plentiful calories and protein makes a big difference to stature.” One may deduce, therefore, that as a country becomes richer, its poeple will grow taller. This has been shown in India, where…

Indian men of 20 are about 1cm taller than 40-year olds, partly because the country was substantially richer when they were born.

More can be drawn from the relationship between height and income. For example, equality of income distribution can be seen in the average height of the citizenry.

…the stature of society may reflect equality as well as prosperity. Extra resources add more to poor people’s growth than they add to rich people’s. So if two societies, with the same income per head, were to line up next to each other, the more egalitarian society should be taller.

This may be one explanation among many for the shrinking America of the 19th century. Tax records show that wealth gaps widened in America as industrialisation took hold. From 1820 to 1900, the Gini coefficient (a standard measure of inequality) in Massachusetts rose by 24%, according to Mr Steckel. Even as average heights fell, the stature of senior students at Yale and Amherst rose from 171cm to 173cm.

Who knew that biology and economics were so interconnected? Anyway, sorry to bum you out, shorties!

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About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

29 responses so far

29 Responses to “Why Mr. Welker is so stinking rich…”

  1. howard linon 09 Apr 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Way to be funny! it's really interesting how height is positively correlated with both self confidence and income. Perhaps it makes a difference because you would look like you have more athourity when you're taller rather than shorter.

  2. Conrad Liuon 09 Apr 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Wow, that's some unexpected blog news. In any case, I would think that rich people are tall because they have more money to buy nutritious meals, therefore making these people grow taller simply through greater biological health. Although I don't completely rule out the whole taller-people-get-more-self-confidence-aka-$$$ way of thinking, it certainly appears less likely than a rich person eating healthy food.

  3. Christina Huon 09 Apr 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Haha, "Anne Case and Christina Paxson of Princeton University, on the other hand, argue that people who grow to their full potential are smarter, on average. Both brains and build depend on the care and nourishment a child receives."

    – Then why are so many jocks so average in intellect?

  4. KatherineYangon 10 Apr 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Hahaha I agree with Christina, no offence to anyone, it's a good question. But there are, of course, still biological implications; Asian people are characteristically shorter than Europeans, does that make us less smart? Plus people find taller people more noticeable, so in an interview for a job maybe, the taller person would make a greater impression. Just my thoughts, I guess.

  5. Sharon Lion 10 Apr 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Supermodels are tall and aren't usually the brightest of the bunch. This correlation between height and success probably just comes down to self confidence and how we carry ourselves. And maybe tall people just come off as more assertive?

    I should probably just wear stilts all the time.

  6. Tim Chuon 10 Apr 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Hmm i guess that is quite interesting…i've heard that taller people get better jobs before but never related to economics like that… As depressing as it may be for some of us, the world seems to bend more for those who are better looking or taller. not exactly for skill and brains. Hollywood would be an easy example of that.

    @ Christina and Katherine:

    Wait a second, I don't think that the article said that taller people were smarter at all. I think what it means is that those who have the nutrition to grow to taller heights are smarter on average due to good nutrition. Height and intelligence may be correlated but there isnt a direct connection between the two. Like they said "Both brains and build depend on the care and nourishment a child receives." So logically, those who are taller have more nourishment and care and thus, they are more intelligent. Also growing to your full potential doesnt mean being tall. Genetically, an asian's full potential is a lot shorter than a European's.

  7. Jeff Yeon 10 Apr 2008 at 8:07 pm

    I might agree with howard's comment. When a big tall man walks into the room, you're inclined to be more intimidated than a if a shorter man walks up to you. This might affect the amount of payment the two types of people receive. Also, it's pretty logical that the amount of nutrition taken in has a positive correletation with body build and intelligence. That said, there are still brilliant shorties out there and tall men sweeping the streets at age 50.

  8. richardtuon 10 Apr 2008 at 8:22 pm

    what the? taller people get better jobs? are you kidding me? I've never heard of such things. Well i agree with what Tim Chu said, that in this modern world, we seems to accept those who are good looking, smart…etc. However, does it really have anything to do with economy? It seems to me that it is just stereotypes.

  9. Charlie.Gaoon 10 Apr 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Its actually true. Most of the CEO's and heads of companies are tall and good looking.

  10. Nicole Wongon 10 Apr 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Darn… I stopped growing 3 years ago. I think Conrad makes a good point there, taller people are more likely to have a better nutritional lifestyle (height isn't solely genetics) and therefore have a more stable economic background to begin with. Maybe taller people also tend to be more intimidating, such as when big bullies bully little kids to take their lunch money…

  11. Michael Dailyon 11 Apr 2008 at 12:19 am

    Yeah, go tall people! Tall people are obviously smarter than inferior short people. I mean it's just common sense. Why are we even arguing about this? I mean it's mean scientifically proven, what more proof must we have.

  12. alicesuon 11 Apr 2008 at 12:27 am

    HAHAHAH daily…

  13. optional.xuon 11 Apr 2008 at 12:40 am

    when world war III comes, and the world bombed back to the stone age

    and we become hunter gatherers again.

    you tall people will wish you weren't so tall.

    you need more food, you arent as coordinated, so clearly you'll starve.

    and daily, dont look for me to get you your steak when that happens.

  14. Chris Seahon 11 Apr 2008 at 11:43 pm

    This actually makes sense, especially about being able to afford better nutritional supplements. Maybe there's a psychological aspect of it too, where tall people may seem to be more powerful, biologically reliable, and in control. Just my two cents.

  15. andyxuon 12 Apr 2008 at 2:18 pm

    I do not believe that wealth and intellect are affected by height for the majority of the population.

    First, the argument that tall people, because they are receiving more nourishment from consuming more food, must be smarter, is flawed. Optimizing the potential of the brain is mainly done through using the brain more often to think. If the average American is consuming more food than the average Korean or Japanese and the average American is also taller, does this necessarily translate to a smarter average American? There is no way to find out.

    In addition, if your mature height is in the average range of somewhere between 165 and 185, the amount of food you intake should be similar to others around your height range. Scientists have claimed that height, just like the optimal intellect, is mainly determined by genetic factors. Environmental factors such as nutritional supplements comes second.

    Secondly, even if you assume that tall people are smarter in average, it is difficult to argue that a smarter person will necessarily earn more money. Ignoring players in the NBA and NFL, I do not think that the effect of higher self-confidence in taller people will make too much of a difference when it comes to doing a job better. Also, physical appearance is only a smaller factor in determining your self-esteem.

    Therefore, the explanation of wealth by height is flawed, even if there is a correlation between those two.

    (I realize that this article is kinda a joke, but so is my comment).

  16. kevinhuangon 12 Apr 2008 at 5:08 pm

    I disagree with Andy having read "Freakonomics" because through their thorough research it seems quite clear that genetics are the main factor in affecting the outcome of people. If a child has tall confident, wealthy parents, then that child is also likely to do well in life because of who his parents are, according to professor Steven Levitt.

  17. Jo Loon 12 Apr 2008 at 5:21 pm

    I've heard this before, and I think its correct to some degree that there is a correlation between rich and height. Its common sense to think that the more money people have, the more food they'll buy, thus being more healthy. I think the reason why Asians are widely perceived as being shorter than Europeans is because Asian countries are for the most part poorer than their European counterparts. It's only been recently that they have became richer. I've seen a lot of tall Chinese adolescents, but not much tall elderly people. Opposite can be said about European countries. They've been rich for a longer time and thus have taller populations.

    As for the correlation between height and intelligence, I don't think that's true. As the examples given above, a lot of tall people are not very smart. But there are people who are smart but are 'vertically challenged',… Napoleon!

  18. Rebecca Sungon 12 Apr 2008 at 8:43 pm

    I think that the article mentioning that taller people have more confidence does indeed boost their economic background. When a tall person has a job interview, their confidence in themselves can make them speak without that hint of doubt in their voice which the interviewer would probably like.

    The article says that "Indian men of 20 are about 1cm taller than 40-year olds, partly because the country was substantially richer when they were born;" I agree with with Jo Lo, Asian countries have only been recently becoming richer (therefore being able to buy more nutritious food), so there's a limited number of tall elderly people.

  19. Dana Y.on 13 Apr 2008 at 4:35 am

    However odd this correlation may sound, I actually believe it may be true. Take South Korea as an example. A normal Asian country situated between newly rising superpower China and a country that already reached its fullest potential in the 1990s, Japan, South Korea became a strategic place for investors to invest during the 1980s. Not only that, following the economic liberalization during the 1980s that gave rise to a successful democracy, South Korea was able to climb out of long period of political turmoil (due to Korean War during the 1950s and political instability from then) as well as economic recession. In fact, South Korea became heavily industrialized as people were so motivated to come out of the depths of poverty, being under Japanese rule, and torn by wars. Not only that, with newly blooming democracy, South Korea underwent huge economic growth in the 1980s. It was also during that time when most South Korean adolescents grew taller. According to a survey held in South Korea, results recorded that South Korean women grew 4.6cm taller than they used to be merely 20 years ago. It was also recorded that South Korean men also grew taller by 6cm in average than they used to be 20 years ago. This is an indubitable evidence that there is, in fact, correlation between height and wealth.

  20. Alex Goldmanon 13 Apr 2008 at 2:03 pm

    An example that might run skew the data collected in this experiment is the height of Japanese people over the past few decades. The average height of a Japanese man is a few inches taller now than it was 50 years ago. This is mainly attributed to a change in the Japanese diet. The traditional diet consists of lots of rice, vegetables, and fish. Nowadays, meat and milk are becoming a more important part of a Japanese person's diet, and as nutritional studies have shown, meat and milk (milk especially) are vital to growth. It's important to note that it wasn't because of Japan's economic status that the people couldn't afford meat and dairy produce – the diet is cultural. The US occupation of Japan introduced meat and milk to the country. The confusing thing with this case is that Japan's economy has improved markedly over the past few decades. So is the correlation between a cultural shift and height more important, or is it the correlation between height and wealth?

  21. Julieon 13 Apr 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I've seen news on this research before. maybe its just that people that are tall give people a better first impression.

  22. serenatuon 13 Apr 2008 at 4:54 pm

    haha, nice article Mr. Welker.

    Well, personally I don't find any connection between tall people and the income they earn. Not all tall people are rich, and not all short people are not as rich. I like what Conrad's saying, rich people are tall, because they have lots of money to buy good stuff to eat, more nutritions than anyone else, that's why they grow so tall.

  23. Kai Lin Fuon 13 Apr 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I agree with Andy that though environmental factors effect height they are second to genetic factors. Also, Alex made a good point. It may seem that the increase in average height among Japanese people is due to the increase in economic status, however the Japanese diet has changed over time. I believe it is due to the cultural shift, as it is unlikely the people couldn't afford dairy products.

  24. Mondon 14 Apr 2008 at 1:02 am

    Well, according to my knowledge. Height is the end result of genetics and environmental factors, so tall people should in theory have better nutritional nourishment (protein/carbs/fat), but does this make them smarter? I refuse to believe so, perhaps it is because I am not considered tall. Well, being tall does give people more of a intimidation factor, which could translate to more power and respect. Thus, a higher wage.

  25. Jinnyon 14 Apr 2008 at 2:59 am

    HAHAHA! This is hilarious! I guess it is fairly true since tall people do seem to be fairly better off. And plus, being tall is always an advantage in almost all cases, like in sports, modeling and etc. I guess people are more noticeable when they are tall and thus, more impressive…? Who knows. But this article seems to have some relevant statistics and facts to support this claim! Hehe. But wow, I've never thought of this. I guess this is the similar case to lookism.

  26. Claire Moonon 14 Apr 2008 at 7:15 am

    funniest article! haha

    WOW there is some psychologial evidence! "height gives adolescents self-confidence and helps them learn valuable social skills" Well it actually was stated on psych textbook, and it was found out to be somewhat true! I never knew that it also relates to economics like taller people are smarter therefore they earn more money! interesting article!

  27. Jennifer Choion 14 Apr 2008 at 7:38 am

    This IS funny, and still making sense. Haha and yeah it might relate to lookism as Jinny said. I guess there really is some advantage in being tall. Intresting statistis and article!

  28. Trevor Sunon 14 Apr 2008 at 6:52 pm

    So thats why I can't get a 4.0 🙁 naw but i do think that height definitely gives the individual an advantage and possibly is the source of their success.

  29. mina.songon 15 Apr 2008 at 3:44 am

    if this is true…. then… we don't have to study?? do we only need to grow as tall as possible??

    I hope this is true but as many of people here said, there will be some, very little percentage, relation, but no definite relation lol