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Opinion

Weighing the wages of thin

Have you ever been convinced that colleagues whose work is just as good as yours earn more than you simply because they are better looking? Or taller? Or slimmer? Michael Owyang, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, examines some of the research on this in a paper written with colleague Kristie Engemann.

That a disproportionate number of CEOs are of above-average height is already known to those who have read Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink. Gladwell polled about half the Fortune 500 companies and discovered that the average height was five foot nine inches, three inches taller than the average US male.

Another study Owyang and Engemann quotes concluded that, for white men in the US, each extra inch in height brings a 1.8% increase in wages.

Some groups of slimmer people also earn more. White men and black women, according to another study quoted, do earn less if overweight. Obese white women suffer disproportionately. The economists used a sample of women aged 16 to 24 in 1981 and checked back with them in 1988.

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