Height is about more than how tall you are. When affluence grows, so too do people. Why? Height seems to correspond to economic growth.
Connecting height and economic growth, a wonderful New Yorker article from 2004 tells us that Americans grew taller more than 50 years ago. Based on military records, a typical male was 67 inches during the mid-1800s, close to 70 inches in 1955, and since then, stayed there. In 1939, an average forward on the University of Wisconsin’s basketball team was 6’1″. In 1999, he was 7 inches taller.
I started thinking about height after reading a recent NY Times column by David Leonhardt on economic growth. At first, when he discusses cutting spending and raising taxes, the column appears to be a traditional attack on the deficit. Soon, though, reminding us that economic growth is the best way to diminish the deficit, he urges us to evaluate deficit cutting strategies in terms of their ability to stimulate growth.
If we follow Leonhardt’s wisdom, maybe then we will surpass the Dutch who are now among the tallest in the world with men averaging 6’1″ and women, 5’8″.
The Economic Lesson
Called anthropometric history, the history of human height has become an economic field of study. Economists use height data to form hypotheses about GDP.