Tall Aussies Have Fatter Paychecks

July 23, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - It apparently pays to be tall in Australia.

A new study by two Australian researchers found that for men Down Under, an additional four inches of height translates into a 3% hourly wage boost, while Aussie women with the same extra height can expect an extra 2% in pay.

Michael Kortt, of the School of Public Health University of Sydney, and Andrew Leigh, of the Economics Program Research School of Social Sciences Australian National University, said the height wage bonus for women is about the same as additional wages from another year of education or four additional years of work experience. For men, four inches of height is equivalent in terms of wages to half a year of education or two years of experience.

A 2008 study found that women in the U.K. and the U.S. gain a wage premium of 5% to 8% for each additional four inches of height. The same study found U.K. and U.S. men who are four inches taller receive a 4% to 10% hourly wage premium.

Why the height difference?

Kortt and Leigh offered a suggestion: “One possibility is that for particular jobs, body size has a direct productive payoff,” the researchers wrote. “For example, a taller shop assistant may be able to reach the top shelf without needing a ladder, while a slimmer construction worker may be able to move more rapidly around the building site. Taller and slimmer workers might exude greater confidence in dealing with customers and co-workers, perhaps because others have treated them more favorably in the past. The final possibility is that shorter and more overweight workers might be subject to discrimination from customers, co-workers, or employers.”

Kortt and Leigh found, however, that chubby employees do not suffer a corresponding wage penalty in Australia.

"This provides us with further reassurance that while there are wage returns to height in Australia, there are no systematic wage penalties to having a higher (body mass index) BMI," the two researchers wrote.

The researchers said their study sample was restricted to respondents aged 25-54 and excluded those not employed full time, those self-employed, those enrolled in full-time education, or who did not answer a health survey. Pregnant women were also kept from the sample.

The study is available here .