Sunday, May 24, 2009

Height and income

In a study released last week, researchers from the University of Sydney and the Australian National University in Carberra concluded that "taller men stood to make much more money than their colleague." In the study, conducted among 20,000 volunteers, the average male height was 5'10". According to the study, if a man is six feet tall, he would earn another 1.5 percent, or $950 a year. That figure is very close to one from a 2004 study by researchers from the University of Florida and the University of North Carolina. The 2004 study found that every inch of height translates to a salary increase of $789.

As a person of short stature, I find these studies interesting. But in reality, the studies are not talking about people of short stature. The studies look at differences between average height men and men slightly larger than average height. But my question would be, 'what does this mean for people of short stature?' If you follow the income pattern listed above, then, as Bill Bradford pointed out in a column from December of 2008, a man 3'10" would earn $20,000 less than a man six feet tall. That seems pretty unrealistic, but, from my limited personal experience and limited anecdotal experience, I would guess that income, hiring, and promotional trends are different for people of short stature, or well below average height, compared to people of average, or above average, height.

While the organization Little People of America slowly builds its advocacy network and while the little person community in general builds coalition with the disability, employment is an issue I hope the community addresses. Because whether the income disparities identified in the more recent study and the study from 2004 are true or not, it's important that we know. And it's important that as individuals, we equip ourselves with the knowledge, the resources and the protections to enable us to reach our full potential.

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