Tall People Laughing All the Way to the Bank

October 17, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Want a nice beefy raise? Try elevator shoes.

What sounds like a bad joke may actually be rooted in fact. So much so, that a few extra inches could equal as much as $800 more dollars a year in annual income, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida and the University of North Carolina.

And we’re not just talking basketball players here; the study found tall people tend to earn more money and win more respect regardless of their occupation or place of work.

“Height matters for career success,” said Timothy Judge, a University of Florida management professor whose research will appear in the spring issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology. “These findings are troubling in that … no one could argue that height is an essential ability required for job performance nor a bona fide occupational qualification.”

After following thousands of people in the US and Britain from childhood through their adult earning years, accounting for both subjective evaluation and objective worker performance, the study found a definite height advantage. Overall, g reater height boosted subjective ratings of work performance, including supervisors’ evaluations of how effective someone is on the job, and also raised objective measures of performance. This in turn translated into greater raises and “if you take this over the course of a 30-year career and compound it, we’re talking about literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of earnings advantage that a tall person enjoys,” Judge said.

The pay advantage apparent is rooted deep in the compensation DNA. T he researchers found we may have been wired to think in favor of tall people thousands of years ago, when those people would have been looked to for protection. Apparently then, cavemen were great salespeople, as the relationship between height and earnings was particularly strong in sales and management but was also present in less social occupations such as engineering, accounting and computer programming.

However, not translated in the study’s results was any bias against shorter people. Overall, researchers found hard work, motivation and intelligence help bridge the height gap.