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Height as a Proxy for Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Ability

  • Andreas Schick
  • Richard H. Steckel

Taller workers receive a substantial wage premium. Studies extending back to the middle of the last century attribute the premium to non-cognitive abilities, which are associated with stature and rewarded in the labor market. More recent research argues that cognitive abilities explain the stature-wage relationship. This paper reconciles the competing views by recognizing that net nutrition, a major determinant of adult height, is integral to our cognitive and non-cognitive development. Using data from Britain's National Childhood Development Study (NCDS), we show that taller children have higher average cognitive and non-cognitive test scores, and that each aptitude accounts for a substantial and roughly equal portion of the stature premium. Together these abilities explain why taller people have higher wages.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w16570.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16570.

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Date of creation: Dec 2010
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16570
Note: DAE LS
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  1. 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.
  2. Mobius, Markus & Rosenblat, Tanya, 2010. "Why Beauty Matters," Staff General Research Papers 32112, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  3. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
  4. 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.
  5. Guido Heineck, 2011. "Does It Pay To Be Nice? Personality And Earnings In The UK," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 64(5), pages 1020-1038, October.
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