Stature and long-term labor market outcomes: Evidence using Mendelian randomization

Econ Hum Biol. 2017 Feb;24:18-29. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2016.10.009. Epub 2016 Nov 8.


We use the Young Finns Study (N=∼2000) on the measured height linked to register-based long-term labor market outcomes. The data contain six age cohorts (ages 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18, in 1980) with the average age of 31.7, in 2001, and with the female share of 54.7. We find that taller people earn higher earnings according to the ordinary least squares (OLS) estimation. The OLS models show that 10cm of extra height is associated with 13% higher earnings. We use Mendelian randomization, with the genetic score as an instrumental variable (IV) for height to account for potential confounders that are related to socioeconomic background, early life conditions and parental investments, which are otherwise very difficult to fully account for when using covariates in observational studies. The IV point estimate is much lower and not statistically significant, suggesting that the OLS estimation provides an upward biased estimate for the height premium. Our results show the potential value of using genetic information to gain new insights into the determinants of long-term labor market success.

Keywords: Earnings; Employment; Height; Height premium; Stature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Height / genetics*
  • Employment / economics*
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis*
  • Personnel Selection / standards*
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Values*
  • Young Adult