Blog | Economics

Tall People Live Better Lives On Average

. 1 min read

According to a new paper by Angus Deaton and Raksha Arora tall people live better lives, at least on average. Or to quote the abstract in full:

"According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index daily poll of the US population, taller people live better lives, at least on average. They evaluate their lives more favorably, and they are more likely to report a range of positive emotions such as enjoyment and happiness. They are also less likely to report a range of negative experiences, like sadness, and physical pain, though they are more likely to experience stress and anger, and if they are women, to worry. These findings cannot be attributed to different demographic or ethnic characteristics of taller people, but are almost entirely explained by the positive association between height and both income and education, both of which are positively linked to better lives."

This paper caught my eye, because I myself am 2 meters or about 6 ft 5 tall.

But do people in nations with a tall population report greater happiness? The Netherlands have the on average tallest population in the world, yet in an international comparison (Appendix A, p.14-16) they score lower than various other countries and even lower than Mexico! But that may be because all those tall people complain a lot about the fact that hotel beds are always too short, that finding clothes that fit can be a pain in the neck and that tall people frequently hit their head against a doorpost or whatever.

Which reminds me that some years ago in another paper the economist Greg Mankiw argued that a utilitarian policy framework would favour a tax credit for short taxpayers and a tax surcharge for tall ones. He doesn't actually endorse such a system, but merely shows that if you find it unacceptable you have to dismiss the standard utilitarian framework.