NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Height as a Proxy for Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Ability

Andreas Schick, Richard H. Steckel

NBER Working Paper No. 16570
Issued in December 2010
NBER Program(s):DAE, LS

Taller workers receive a substantial wage premium. Studies extending back to the middle of the last century attribute the premium to non-cognitive abilities, which are associated with stature and rewarded in the labor market. More recent research argues that cognitive abilities explain the stature-wage relationship. This paper reconciles the competing views by recognizing that net nutrition, a major determinant of adult height, is integral to our cognitive and non-cognitive development. Using data from Britain's National Childhood Development Study (NCDS), we show that taller children have higher average cognitive and non-cognitive test scores, and that each aptitude accounts for a substantial and roughly equal portion of the stature premium. Together these abilities explain why taller people have higher wages.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16570

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