There’s a New Type of Pay Gap: The Height and Weight Gap

As if gender wasn’t a shallow-enough reason for the persistent wage gap, a new study found that height and weight have been added to the mix, too. More specifically, if you’re a short male or an overweight female, then you can bet that you earn less than your taller, thinner colleagues. Here’s what you need to know.


(Photo Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr)

Looks like a certain smaller-statured male demographic will be joining women (especially overweight women) in the fight for pay equity very soon. Based on a recent U.K. study, vertically-challenged men are also getting the short end of he stick (pun intended) when it comes to pay discrimination.

The Study and Methodtology

The study was conducted on roughly 120,000 men and women between 37 to 73 years of age who had genetic data stored in the U.K. Biobank’s database. Data for the study were collected through questionnaires and interviews conducted from 2006 to 2010, along with specimen samples (e.g. urine, blood, and saliva) from the participants.

The method used to gather said findings is referred to as Mendelian randomization, “a method of using measured variation in genes of known function to examine the causal effect of a modifiable exposure on disease in non-experimental studies (Wikipedia).” The study examined 400 variants that genetically affect height and 70 variants that affect body mass index (BMI) then analyzed how those variants connected to five key socioeconomic factors, like education, employment status, occupation, income, and more.

Here are some key findings directly from the study.

1. Taller stature was strongly correlated with: participants spending longer in full-time education, participants’ chances of having obtained a degree, participants’ job class (skilled work), higher household income, and lower levels of social deprivation (stronger in men than women).

2. Higher BMI was strongly correlated with: participants finishing full-time education at a younger age, lower chances of participants obtaining a degree, participants employed in less-skilled occupations, lower annual household income (much greater for women than men), and higher levels of deprivation (twice as strong for women).

In the end, the study concluded (with great conviction) that your chances of career success are far greater if you’re a tall man or a skinny female.

“For each two and a half inches of genetically determined extra height, a man was 12 percent more likely to work in a high-status job and earned an average $1,611 more a year,” reports The New York Times. As for women, “a 4.6-point increase in B.M.I. resulted in $4,200 less in annual income.” Say what?

What You Need to Know

As shocking as the findings may be, the bigger issue here isn’t about a person’s height or weight (or any other physical attribute, for that matter), but rather the unconscious bias that persists in our society and also influences our decisions and behavior in our everyday lives. Simply being more aware of unconscious bias as well as other issues involving workplace inequality is enough to spark a bit of change in the right direction. The reality is: we’re all part of the problem, but we can also be part of the solution. Remember, acceptance is the first step.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your thoughts about the study’s findings? Have you seen these findings play out in your career? If so, share your experience with our community on Twitter and join the conversation, or feel free to leave your comment below.