There is already a growing body of research suggesting that tall men are generally paid better and are viewed as more masculine and competent. A new paper suggests that their height advantage also spills over into their personal lives.
“There seems to be an almost universal agreement among men and women that they would prefer to be in a relationship where the man is taller,” said Abigail Weitzman, lead author of the study published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit organization that focuses on how the economy works.
That leaves short men with a smaller pool of women to date and marry. But it’s not all bad news for them. Their relationships tend to last longer, although that may have more to do with their partners’ choices.
Shorter guys -- less than 5-foot-7 -- "get divorced at lower rates,” Weitzman noted. “This probably means that women who don't want to be in a relationship with short men are more likely to leave before they get married, rather than after.”
The study found that tall men -- guys over 6-foot-2 -- marry at higher rates and are more likely to date and wed older, well-educated women. Short men, on the other hand, get married at the lowest rates, and they marry women who are less educated and younger than they are. They also marry women who are closer to their height — or taller.
The study also examined what happens in the course of these relationships and found --somewhat paradoxically -- that tall men, though they are viewed as more masculine, are more likely to be in egalitarian relationships. They do more housework than shorter men and their income is more likely to be similar to their spouse's. Shorter men have relationships that more closely mirror traditional power dynamics: the man as breadwinner, the woman spending more time on housework.
“Our findings portray a pattern in which short men compensate for their status disadvantage by enacting other types of stereotypical masculinity,” Weitzman said.
If tall men have advantages when it comes to desirability, why do they do more housework than shorter men? Weitzman suspects that there could be two explanations.
“It may just be that housework is less threatening to tall men, that is, if they believe their tallness confers them a certain degree of masculinity,” Weitzman said. On the other hand, short men compensate for the masculinity “perception gap” by displaying other behaviors—such as making more money outside the home and contributing less to housework.
The other explanation could simply be that the amount of money a man makes relative to his spouse is inversely related to the amount of housework he does. The spouses of short men also tend to be less educated, which could also contribute to that result.