Inches equal dollars in the job market
According to a recent study by the University of Florida, short people may be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to salary and respect. The study showed that shorter people annually earn $789 less per inch than their taller coworkers.
The study, which traced thousands of participants from childhood into adulthood, observed their professional and personal lives, controlling for gender, weight, and age, according to US News.
"Physical appearance and stature are known to have far deeper effects on our affinities than most ever care to acknowledge," said Assistant Professor of Sociology Joe Bandy, who teaches Sociology of Identity and Interaction. "Therefore, I would not be surprised if it were true that height did positively correlate with higher income."
However Professor Brady did raise some questions concerning the study by noting that averages are often skewed and that there are always exceptions to the rule.
The issue is not a completely new topic on the Bowdoin campus. Professor of Economics Rachel Connelly assigns a paper in one of her classes that looks at a similar issue with lawyers: good-looking lawyers earn more money and tend to go into certain areas of law with more areas of public contact.
"It's the same phenomenon," said Professor Connelly. "There's a human process involved in getting jobs and raises that has implications for the outcome."
Professor Connelly explained that these studies started in order to look at the ramifications of race and gender in order to have a better a better understanding of discrimination in the workplace.
"These studies show the proclivities of the system to make decisions that aren't ability-based," she said. "It tells me that labor markets are not a pure meritocracy, and I worry about more problematic differentiations."
The issue becomes unclear when considering whether there is actually a productivity difference or if it is purely discrimination when it comes to hiring a workforce based on physical factors such as height.
"If consumers respond to taller people in better ways," said Connelly, "then it can be argued that the company has the right to pay more for that employee."
Connelly explained that there is really no way to test the two hypotheses and if the trend is occurring because of higher productivity, then how do we fix that?
Those who have yet to enter the workforce have mixed feelings concerning the study.
Nina Durchfort '07, who at six feet is well above the average height for women, says that her height is not something that she thinks about on a regular basis.
"I don't notice any change in people's attitude toward me because I'm tall," said Durchfort.
Attitude concerning stature may be gender dependent, because for 5'7" Ryan Dunlavey '07, his height is something he's aware of.
"As far as our culture goes, height is a big deal," said Dunlavey. "It's something that I'm conscious of on a daily basis, but I don't think it'll affect my career that much. Right now it just makes me strive to work harder, especially in sports."
Jonah Gabry '07, who is 6'3", was not fully convinced either, saying, "I guess I could see that being taller might be more intimidating, but I don't think that it's really a conscious reaction."
Allie Chin '07 at 5'1" has accepted and become accustomed to her height, but she did say that it could cause problems when people associate height with age.
"I went to get my hair cut last week," said Chin, "and the man cutting my hair thought I was in junior high."
Professor Connelly believes that this study has important repercussions not only for society as a labor market but also from a cultural viewpoint.
"It's important that we stop judging people by earnings said Connelly. "It's a blurry measure at the very least of someone's ability, and that's something that we all have to remember."