Saturday, August 7, 2010

Men and women earn more money if they're tall and attractive — especially men.

"I thought looks mattered more in women," says Dr. Helen. "Apparently, not at work."

Here's a summary of the study to which she's referring:

A London Guildhall University survey of 11,000 33-year-olds found that unattractive men earned 15 percent less than those deemed attractive, while plain women earned 11 percent less than their prettier counterparts. In their report "Beauty, Productivity and Discrimination: Lawyers', Looks and Lucre," Hamermesh and Biddle found that the probability of a male attorney attaining early partnership directly correlates with how handsome he is.
That's from this list of "7 Ways to Boost Your Pay." That title by CBS is rather misleading, since some of them aren't things you necessarily have any control over: women can't grow mustaches, and people can't change whether they're right-handed or left-handed.

One of the "7 Ways to Boost Your Pay" is "Walk taller," which is based on this research on height:
When it comes to height, every inch counts--in fact, in the workplace, each inch above average may be worth $789 more per year, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 89, No. 3).

The findings suggest that someone who is 6 feet tall earns, on average, nearly $166,000 more during a 30-year career than someone who is 5 feet 5 inches--even when controlling for gender, age and weight.

The height-salary link was found by psychologist Timothy A. Judge, PhD, of the University of Florida, and researcher Daniel M. Cable, PhD, of the University of North Carolina. They analyzed data from four American and British longitudinal studies that followed about 8,500 participants from adolescence to adulthood and recorded personal characteristics, salaries and occupations. Judge and Cable also performed a meta-analysis of 45 previous studies on the relationship between height and workplace success.

Judge offers a possible explanation for the height bias: Tall people may have greater self-esteem and social confidence than shorter people. In turn, others may view tall people as more leader-like and authoritative.

"The process of literally 'looking down on others' may cause one to be more confident," Judge says. "Similarly, having others 'looking up to us' may instill in tall people more self-confidence."

As such, the biggest correlation between height and salary appeared in sales and management positions--careers in which customer perception has a major impact on success. If customers believe a tall salesperson is more commanding, for example, they may be more likely to follow the salesperson's wishes, Judge says.

Accordingly, height was most predictive of earnings in jobs that require social interaction, which include sales, management, service and technical careers. The height effect also mattered--though to a lesser degree--in other jobs such as crafts and blue-collar and clerical positions, researchers found.
As with attractiveness, though less surprisingly, height matters more for men than for women:
The study also found that shorter men are slightly more likely to encounter height bias in the workplace than are shorter women. . . .

Since men and women tend to differ in height, researchers controlled for gender by using the average height of 5 feet 9 inches for an American man and 5 feet 3 inches for a woman. They also controlled for age because people tend to lose 1 to 3 inches of their height during a lifetime.
Despite CBS's advice to "Walk taller," you don't have much control over how tall you are. You might be able to affect how tall you appear (which is presumably what matters in this context) by choosing your shoes. If you're under 18, you can eat a nutritious diet and not smoke. But your genes are the main factor.

When I was visiting family (including my three brothers) earlier this summer, we were talking about how height affect's one's life -- more in the context of dating/relationships than careers/money. I was asked how tall I'd like to be. I said 6'1" or 6'2". You get the main advantages of tallness without being so tall as to be potentially awkward or conspicuous, nor are you as likely to have people use "You're so tall!" or "How tall are you?" as a conversation-starter.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was when my 3 brothers and I had our heights measured (down to the quarter of an inch) by standing against my dad's kitchen wall and marking it with a pencil. As I thought (but it was nice to have it confirmed), I'm exactly 5'10". My brothers are 5'9 1/2", 5'9 1/4", and 5'3 1/2". (Respectively, we're 29, 27, 15, and 13 years old.) The 15-year-old will probably be taller than me the next time I see him. The 13-year-old kept changing the names next to the markings to make himself taller.

20/20 reported on an experiment that showed the profound effect of male height in dating:
Women will take just about any shortcoming in a man, except in the height department, according to Andrea McGinty, who founded the San Diego-based dating service It's Just Lunch.

McGinty helped ABCNEWS put together an experiment to test just how willing women are to date shorter men. We brought together several short men and asked them to stand next to taller men. We invited groups of women to look at the men and choose a date.

To see if the women would go for short guys who were successful, ABCNEWS' Lynn Sherr created extraordinary resumes for the shorter men. She told the women that the shorter men included a doctor, a best-selling author, a champion skier, a venture capitalist who'd made millions by the age of 25.

Nothing worked. The women always chose the tall men. Sherr asked whether there'd be anything she could say that would make the shortest of the men, who was 5 feet, irresistible. One of the women replied, "Maybe the only thing you could say is that the other four are murderers." Another backed her up, saying that had the taller men had a criminal record she might have been swayed to choose a shorter man. Another said she'd have considered the shorter men, if the taller men had been described as "child molesters."
This was an insightful response to an AskMetafilter question about a 5'8" woman who was dating a shorter man and had misgivings about it. The woman who asked the question said she had "a hard time feeling physically attracted to someone shorter than me, largely because of how awkward I feel standing next to them in public . . . . Mostly I feel like a big hulking lump." The response:
This really stood out to me. As a fellow tall woman (I've actually got three inches on you!), I can relate to the self-consciousness about being tall, especially because "feminine" is so often coded as petite, small, and cute. I totally get how being taller than a dude can make you feel unsexy, because there's a [lot] of cultural programming that tells us how wonderful it is to be swept up in the embrace of a big, tall man, to be safe in his arms, blah blah blah. It can feel like a strange inversion of feminine and masculine, almost, to be taller than your honey. . . .

It might also be worth thinking about the fact that you're conflating "being attracted to a dude" and "feeling attractive while I'm with a dude." Those two things aren't the same, and a big part of my personal journey of accepting and lovin' my body was rejecting the idea that sexy was something I performed (that is, I felt sexy when other people looked at me like I was sexy), rather than something I felt.


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

That 13-year-old is a funny, funny guy.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Truer words were never spoken.