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Size Matters! Body Height and Labor Market Discrimination: A Cross-European Analysis

  • Francesco Cinnirella


  • Joachim Winter

Taller workers earn on average higher salaries. Recent research has proposed cognitive abilities and social skills as explanations for the height-wage premium. Another possible mechanism, employer discrimination, has found little support. In this paper, we provide some evidence in favor of the discrimination hypothesis. Using a cross section of 13 countries, we show that there is a consistent height-wage premium across Europe and that it is largely due to occupational sorting. We show that height has a significant effect for the occupational sorting of employed workers but not for the self-employed. We interpret this result as evidence of employer discrimination in favor of taller workers. Our results are consistent with the theoretical predictions of recent models on statistical discrimination and employer learning.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2733.

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Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2733
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  1. Altonjii, Joseph G., 2005. "Employer Learning, Statistical Discrimination and Occupational Attainment," Working Papers 3, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  2. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Jeff E. Biddle, 1993. "Beauty and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 4518, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Anne Case & Christina Paxson & Mahnaz Islam, 2008. "Making Sense of the Labor Market Height Premium: Evidence From the British Household Panel Survey," NBER Working Papers 14007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Robert Fairlie & Alicia Robb, 2005. "Families, Human Capital, and Small Business: Evidence from the Characteristics of Business Owners Survey," Working Papers 05-07, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  5. Joseph G. Altonji, 2005. "Employer Learning, Statistical Discrimination and Occupational Attainment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 112-117, May.
  6. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2006. "Stature and status: Height, ability, and labor market outcomes," Working Papers 232, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Heineck, Guido, 2009. "Too tall to be smart? The relationship between height and cognitive abilities," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 78-80, October.
  8. Joseph G. Altonji & Charles R. Pierret, 1997. "Employer learning and statistical discrimination," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues WP-97-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  9. Biddle, Jeff E & Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1998. "Beauty, Productivity, and Discrimination: Lawyers' Looks and Lucre," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 172-201, January.
  10. Guido Heineck, 2005. "Up in the Skies? The Relationship between Body Height and Earnings in Germany ," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 19(3), pages 469-489, 09.
  11. Fabrizio Mazzonna & Franco Peracchi, 2009. "Aging, cognitive abilities and retirement," CEIS Research Paper 152, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 05 Dec 2012.
  12. Giorgio Brunello & Margherita Fort & Guglielmo Weber, 2009. "Changes in Compulsory Schooling, Education and the Distribution of Wages in Europe," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(536), pages 516-539, 03.
  13. Francesco Cinnirella & Marc Piopiunik & Joachim Winter, 2010. "Why Does Height Matter for Educational Attainment? Evidence from German Pre-Teen Children," CESifo Working Paper Series 2983, CESifo Group Munich.
  14. Altonji, Joseph G. & Blank, Rebecca M., 1999. "Race and gender in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 48, pages 3143-3259 Elsevier.
  15. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," NBER Working Papers 10522, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Fabian Lange, 2007. "The Speed of Employer Learning," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 1-35.
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