Skip to content

Europeans are taller than Americans

Once the tallest people in the world, Americans have been overtaken in height by most western and northern Europeans, researchers have revealed. According to Metro:
The Dutch - now the planet's tallest nation - tower over their US counterparts by around 4.7cm (1.8in) for men and 5.7cm (2.2in) for women, research published in the Annals of Human Biology journal shows. 
John Komlos, Professor of Economic History at the University of Munich, and Benjamin Lauderdale of Princeton University's Department of Politics suggest that with environmental factors influencing height, poorer diets in the US may explain the shift. The scientists also point to better health care in western and northern Europe and more comprehensive welfare systems as possible explanations for the trend. The pair analysed data from a number of statistical surveys to find trends in the physical stature of non-Hispanic white and black men and women born in the US, which they compared to European populations.
The New Yorker writes about "The height gap: Why Europeans are getting taller and taller—and Americans aren't." The article is no longer available online, but here is a lengthy quote:
In the First World War, the average American soldier was still two inches taller than the average German. But sometime around 1955 the situation began to reverse. The Germans and other Europeans went on to grow an extra two centimetres a decade, and some Asian populations several times more, yet Americans haven’t grown taller in fifty years. By now, even the Japanese—once the shortest industrialized people on earth—have nearly caught up with us, and Northern Europeans are three inches taller and rising.
The average American man is only five feet nine and a half—less than an inch taller than the average soldier during the Revolutionary War.  Women, meanwhile, seem to be getting smaller. (...)

Compared with people in thirty-six other industrialized countries, it showed, Americans rank twenty-eighth in average longevity—just above the Irish and the Cypriots (the Japanese top the rankings). “Ask yourself this,” Komlos said, peering at me above his reading glasses.
“What is the difference between Western Europe and the U.S. that would work in this direction? It’s not income, since Americans, at least on paper, have been wealthier for more than a century. So what is it?” The obvious answer would seem to be immigration. The more Mexicans and Chinese there are in the United States, the shorter the American population becomes. But the height statistics that Komlos cites include only native-born Americans who speak English at home, and he is careful to screen out people of Asian and Hispanic descent.
Height variations within a population are largely genetic, but height variations between populations are mostly environmental, anthropometric history suggests. If Joe is taller than Jack, it’s probably because his parents are taller. But if the average Norwegian is taller than the average Nigerian it’s because Norwegians live healthier lives. That’s why the United Nations now uses height to monitor nutrition in developing countries. In our height lies the tale of our birth and upbringing, of our social class, daily diet, and health-care coverage. In our height lies our history. (...)

Tall men, a series of studies has shown, benefit from a significant bias. They get married sooner, get promoted quicker, and earn higher wages. According to one recent study, the average six-foot worker earns a hundred and sixty-six thousand dollars more, over a thirty-year period, than his five-foot-five-inch counterpart—about eight hundred dollars more per inch per year. Short men are unlucky in politics (only five of forty-three Presidents have been shorter than average) and unluckier in love.


No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

Zyme on :

"According to one recent study, the average six-foot worker earns a hundred and sixty-six thousand dollars more, over a thirty-year period, than his five-foot-five-inch counterpart—about eight hundred dollars more per inch per year." Well you have to be compensated for a lot of things when you are this tall: Low doors, most clothes are too small making those fitting more expensive, everything in your daily life made for smaller people and so on. I know what Im talking about, Im 6.3 feet after all. Anyone bigger in here? :)

Kevin on :

Better health care? I doubt that. More widely available, maybe, but better? I doubt that very much. And 'more comprehensive welfare systems' make you taller? That's just pathetic.

Don S on :

It's a sign of God's favor bestowed upon the righteous. Or is that the self-righteous? ;) Or perhaps because all the stunted ones get aborted? Not sure. Given European birth rates are you going to wind up with very few very tall people?

Shah Alexander on :

The United States is multiracial. Latinos and Asians could lower average height. When I go to the US, I am impressed that Mexicans are quite short. If the same race comparison, for example, comparison of Anglo-German stocks on both sides of the Atlantic, things may be different. But American professional athletes are much bigger and tougher than European counterparts. Maybe because popular pro-sports in America like football and baseball, are more power-oriented than European soccer. And steroid? ......

Zyme on :

Now I know why no useful comments arrive from the other side of the pond - Im talking to dwarves! :D

Pat Patterson on :

Ouch! Stop looking down at the top of my head when you insult me.

Zyme on :

You may bet I will :D

Martin on :

Very funny. When are you going to compare penis lengths in the European Union and North America? Smaller condoms are no joke in India | FP Passport "A two-year study conducted by the Indian Council on Medical Research has concluded that Indian men just don't measure up. According to the study, 60 percent of Indian men have penises that are smaller than the international average. Three to five centimeters smaller, in fact." Actually, it is a serious issue: "We all snickered on Friday when the story first broke, but it's actually no laughing matter. According to the report, the bad fit is wreaking havoc on safe sex practices in India, which leads the world in HIV infections."

Nanne on :

I've heard several time that it's a 'public secret' that the Dutch are as tall as they are due to all the growth hormones in their meat. Don't know if there's something to that. There are many factors that influence height (genes, nutrition, health, but also happiness during various stages of life, and maybe even the height of peers). A study into what the advantages of height are has to control for a lot of such factors. For instance, as nutrition plays a role, shorter people will also tend to have a lower intelligence. Not because short people are dumber because of being short, but because the environment in the womb and nutrition during the first few years of life can have a strong impact on intelligence, as well as on height. So maybe the Dutch are the tallest nation on the planet because they're the happiest, best-nourished, healthiest people. But maybe it's all due to our hormone-filled meat and dairy.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Happiness makes people taller? Hm, I guess I should pursue happiness... Or eat more meat? Isn't the meat in Germans and the US at least as hormone-filled as in the Netherlands?

Nanne on :

Yes, happiness! Got little time to do the digging, but here's the wiki on the topic: I think that growth in men tends to peter out around age 18 and in women around age 16, so that's too late for you Joerg.

Zyme on :

I believe it is a combination of genes and the kind of food you receive during the age you grow. I once heard that in Asia the average person has gained quite an amount of height during the last 50 years while in North Corea it has remained the same due to their suboptimal food supply. The genetical difference I believe should result from the kind of climate in a respective region.

Carrie on :

Actually, it's in the US that growth hormones and antibiotics run rampant in the meat and dairy industry. Nations which surpass us like the Netherlands, Sweden and Canada have strict standards on how much can be put in livestock and trust me, it's very little compared to us. Better health care (more widely available), active lifestyles, better education and a better social welfare structure are puttin them ahead of us. And by welfare, I don't mean where the gov't hands you money and you don't work; welfare as in the gov't has systems set up to make sure their citizens are properly taken care of.

wayne on :

great site with lots of useful info

Add Comment

E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.

Form options