Wage and Tall Teenagers

June 28, 2007

Another topic in Steven Landsburg’s book More Sex is Safer Sex comes from the research on how teen height predicts adult earnings. Previous research shows that tall people earn more, however, the kicker is that your teenage height is all that matters.

Two adults of the same age and height who were different heights at age 16 are treated differently in the labor market—the person who was taller as a teen earns more. Being relatively short through the teen years—as opposed to adulthood or early childhood—essentially determines the (wage) returns to height.

The researchers say this is due to increased involvement in sports and other social extracurricular activities. Maybe. Perhaps it is due to a “nurture assumption” effect where teenagers sort themselves among their peers based on height. I also wonder if the numbers are not skewed by early vs. late bloomer affects which is the only way (in my mind) that individuals change their height relative to their peers between teenage and adult years.

Interesting stuff.