Tall or short may affect more than just a man’s suit size — according to a new study it may also impact the success of his marriage.
Sociologists from NYU combed through data using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) — which has collected information on the same 4,500 families since 1968.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from 1986 — the first year height was recorded — through 2011 to determine if a man’s height affected relationship dynamics. Men were classified as short (less than 66” in 1986; less than 67” in 2009), average, or tall (more than 73” in 1986; more than 74” in 2009).
Researchers also measured income, education and the height difference between spouses once the men were actually married. For example, in 1986, 92.7 percent of men were taller than their spouses; in 2009, 92.2 percent were taller.
From the data, researchers found major differences in relationship patterns between short and tall men.
Love lives of short men:
Short men were found to marry later in life than average or tall men, but were 32 percent less likely to divorce. They were also more likely to marry less educated and younger women. Once married, they did less of the housework and earned a much higher income than their spouse.
Why? The researchers hypothesize that because height is related to masculinity, short men may use other aspects of the relationship — income, housework — to demonstrate their manliness. “Short men may exchange their breadwinner status for less housework … because a lower share of housework or a higher share of relative earnings allow short men to enact traditional gender ideals, thereby performing their masculinity in the absence of symbolic anthropomorphic differences,” the researchers write in the paper.
Love lives of tall men:
Tall men were found to marry sooner in life, but were more at risk for divorce later on, as shorter men had more stable marriages. However, researchers note that the link between short men and stable marriages could be because they chose to marry later (or didn’t have the option until later).
Tall men were also more likely to marry women closer to their age, and who were better-educated.
Why? “From the perspective of relationship exchange models, this indicates that the tallest men exchange their attractive attribute (height) for better-educated spouses, while short men are unable to do so,” the researchers write.
It should be noted that this data suggests a trend which occurred from 1986 to 2011, and of course does not apply to all couples. However, it does shed light on an interesting topic.
As the researchers explain in the paper, “Marriage and divorce have implications for socioeconomic stratification and asset accumulation, our observed effects suggest that men’s height may indirectly affect their economic status and socioeconomic mobility through these demographic processes.”
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