Saturday, November 26, 2011

Height and family size

A study reported by the BBC (H/T Jason Malloy) found that, contrary to expectations, tall men do not have the most children. Men of average height do.

I replicated the study with MIDUS data on 2,316 white men, and found the following:

Mean number of children

Tall men 2.43
Average men 2.57
Short men 2.46

The results are similar to the study's (the numbers are high because stepchildren and adopted children are included). The difference is attributed to average men marrying earlier. The thinking seems to be that taller men hold out longer before getting married--because of greater attractiveness--and end up marrying women who are also older and who have fewer married years in which to have children.


  1. Anonymous12:33 PM

    Given that taller men may have greater perceived value in the dating and marriage market, they might well tend to marry later than men of average or shorter height. The thing is, I'd expect them to choose younger women in many cases.


  2. Given that adopted and stepchildren are included, might the average men be disproportionately rearing the children of tall men?

  3. If short men's family size lagged last, everything conjectured here might be logical. They don't and it doesn't...

  4. Anonymous3:28 AM

    Studies have found that women tend to prefer men of medium height over the tall and the short. One study found the ideal height for a man is 6ft. Another study found that women would rather date a man in the 5ft9-5ft11 range over a man who stood in the 6ft2-6ft4 range.

    I also tend to doubt that tall men have lower fertility because they date around more. If this were true, we'd expect short men to have higher fertility. Instead the pattern seems to be medium>taller=short. Which is consistent with previous studies.

    From an evolutionary perspective, men of medium height would likely be superior to the short and the tall. Their height would be an indicator of good health, but they'd have lower caloric requirements than the excessively tall.


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