One inch equals $30,000 in online dating world

A Duke University study analyzed data from 22,000 online daters and found that "women put a premium on income and height when deciding which men to contact."
For example, the study showed a 5-foot-9-inch man needs to make $30,000 more than a 5-foot-10-inch one to be as successful in the dating pool.
From Professor Mark J. Perry's Blog for Economics and Finance


  1. Surely that correlation is not linear. For instance, I would imagine an 8-foot-3 man is not $30,000 more attractive than an 8-foot-2 man. Unless you’re a fan of basketball – I suppose – or rather, basketballers.

  2. Having dated a fair number of men from various online sites I would have to say that $30,000 is fair compensation for the negative attitude and the giant-ass chip on the shoulder of the “shorter” men.

    1. At what point do they start having these chips on their shoulders? Is it more for every inch below the average height for men or every inch below 6 ft? Is this the same as or similar to the “Napoleon complex”? I’m a short guy (just below 5’7″) but I’ve never really been taunted or made to feel insecure about it. Maybe one has to be even shorter before that starts happening? Just curious.

      1. I’m continually taunted about it, but don’t have any sort of complex. I only worry about things I can change (this is why I’m annoyed I’ve put on weight lately).

        The view amongst some women that short men have a chip on their shoulders is something I’ve seen before, and is nothing short of annoying…

      2. I found the shoulder chip to be biggest around the 5’7″-5’8″ mark (these were also the same guys who lied about their height the most). Basically most of the guys who were my height (when I wasn’t wearing heels) were the ones who seems to feel they had the most to prove to the world, and turned out to be the biggest jerks.

        Taller than that, no chip, and shorter than that, no chip.

        Height became a requirement when i was online dating not because I’m “heightist” but because if they said they were 5’8″ I knew 1) they were probably lying, and 2) they were probably jerks. :)

        1. Isn’t your rejection of these men due to their height just going to feed their lowered sense of self-worth? Furthermore, you claim to not be heightist but you choose to not date people of a certain height, which is a bit of a contradiction. Not dating black people because you find most of them to be jerks is racist, so why isn’t not dating short people based on a stereotype heightist?

          1. I never said I wouldn’t date a man that was that height, or that I would “reject” men that were “short”. Hell, I married one that was 5’7″ once upon a time.

            Nor do I think it’s my duty to cure the insecurities of every man who crosses my path.

            It’s online dating, you can screen for eye colour and horoscope signs, why not height?

          2. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be able to screen for these things, I was just calling a spade a spade. You admitted you tend to avoid short men specifically because of their height, which is heightist. That’s all I was really getting at, and it’s not at all uncommon — I’ve learned from personal experience that most people are. My girlfriend is an inch taller than me (I’m a mere 5’6″), and she’s been known to vocalize how she wishes I was her height or taller (usually so she can wear feel more comfortable wearing heels).

            I was also just pointing out that people often lament that short men are assholes and use this as justifications for them being paid less, given worse jobs and not being as successful in the dating pool, when it is this type of adverse treatment that probably reinforces their asshole behaviour.

            Oh, and just so we’re on the same page, I tend to agree that there are a huge chunk of short men who are assholes, and it probably is more common among short men. I just don’t think it’s a good reason to avoid someone before you’ve met.

          3. Not hiring someone because they are short is heightist because it presumes that a short person isn’t qualified. Not dating someone because they are short (or black, or have huge feet) just means that it’s not attractive to some, which is subjective and perfectly fine. Don’t like it? Now you know that you can actually do something about it.

            @Moriarty (#19): a good point. Though if I remember correctly it was only about $10k an inch.

          4. Heh, it’s kind of funny how the thing that “I can do about it” (make more money) is the thing you later acknowledge I will have a hard time doing because of the wage gap between the tall and short.

          5. I still won’t cop to being “heightist”. :)
            I never rejected someone based on their height in the real world. I did eventually ignore online profiles of men that I thought might have chips on their shoulders, and unfortunately that meant men around my height. But only online. I’ve dated lots of guys shorter than me that I’ve met IRL, heck I even married one. Its just the online dudes.

        2. I’m going to respectfully disagree with you not being “heightist.” You just have a more specific and unusual prejudice, based on what one would assume is a very small sample size.

    2. I’m 5’11” and I have a chip on each shoulder, but neither chip has anything to do with my height. So that pretty much blows your theory right out of the water, doesn’t it?

  3. …and in other news today, Duke University announced the endowment of an Economics chair by the Cuban Heel Manufacturers Association.

  4. No doubt the “women” they sampled were all juniors or sophomores at their own university. Because everyone knows how representational of the norm that the barely adult are.

    Why do studies like this still get funded?

    1. Thank you… not to mention that they are probably going entirely off a self-reporting survey where girls are reporting their “ideal” rather than actual dating history.

  5. They don’t say how much +1 BMI will cost a woman, although it according to their statistics men are looking for near-anorexic women.

    I have not found this to be true, through the years. Most guys want someone pretty, but they prefer not to see bones under the skin. Ditto for most women wanting someone who is well enough off, but aren’t necessarily looking for a millionaire.

  6. Now if only I could figure out a way to remain happily married (i.e. hold my dating success stable), and shrink approximately 1/2″ to 1″ in height, so as to receive a $15,000 to $30,000 salary increase…

  7. Short men are women’s fat chicks. 5’8 1/2″ is the median average for US men. I make up for my 5’6″ by being an exceptionally foxy silver fox.

      1. The article doesn’t seem to have any data on whether other men care about height.

        In terms of attraction, it’s a fetish like any other fetish. Which means that bigger is more likely to be better.

        In terms of self-image, men tend to lie about their height. I had five guys trying to convince me that I was 6′-5″ because they were all 6′-3″ and I was a couple of inches taller than them. I am definitely not over 6′-2″.

        Back when I was a lad, women used to lie about their shoe size, pretending that it was much smaller. I think we’ve gone beyond that, at least.

        1. Maybe we’ve gone beyond lying about it, but women with shoe sizes over about 8 still seem to feel embarrassed and ashamed about their “huge feet.”

          I’d like to see OKCupid’s statistical analysis about height. They do it with everything else on their site.

          Like Thalia, I’m curious to see a similar analysis for BMI and women. Although the “thin but not too thin” standard just makes me think of the classic Onion article Women Have To Stop Starving Themselves Past The Point Of Hotness, which is one of the few truly great feminist satires (by which I mean satire with a feminist point).

        2. In terms of attraction, it’s a fetish like any other fetish. Which means that bigger is more likely to be better.

          Maybe, but men who are attracted to men may fetishize different characteristics than women who are attracted to men. Are more gay dudes drawn to towering muscle-men or nubile little boy toys? I don’t pretend to know, but this study doesn’t say either.

  8. As a relatively short man, I’m obviously more acutely aware of the issue than most, but height is a serious issue in dating.

    I have talked to many women of varying heights who all agree that they would not consider dating a man who was shorter than them under any circumstances (except, apparently, heaps of cash). Also, while I have certainly met some short men with “Napoleon syndrome,” there are plenty of other short men who have nothing to prove.

    Tangentially related, most (all?) sperm banks will not accept “deposits” from men who are shorter than 6 feet tall, while there is no IQ/education requirement. Thus, it seems women would prefer their children to be fathered by giant idiots than short geniuses…

  9. Taller people, especially taller men, also have higher salaries on average.

    And just to preempt the inevitable, Napoleon was actually slightly above average height for the time, at about 5’7″.

    1. Moriarty, the average isn’t what counts: being as tall as the average under-nourished peasant is no consolation when you’re surrounded by well-fed aristocrats.

      1. Pretty sure the average under-nourished peasant would have been significantly shorter than 5’7.

        The myth comes from:
        1) The fact that the British government actively spread it at the time.
        2) The fact that he was 5’2 in the French measure, causing confusion.
        3) That his personal guards were all at least 6′, so he would look short next to them.
        4) That one of his nicknames was “le petit corporal,” which referred to him being a “man of the people” rather than a physically short person.

  10. I note that they’re equating “success” with number of responses. I personally always felt quality of responses trumped quantity when I was running on-line ads, however discouraging “dry spells” might be.

  11. Now here is an honest question, does height start working against you after a point? At 6’6″ do I need to be making 6 figures to meet someone online or does it cap somewhere?

  12. Similarly, is 5’9″ making 15 000 vs. 5’8″ making 45 000 the same as 5’9″ making 500 000 vs. 5’8″ making 530 000?

    I’m trying to remember my Tufte and how you graph correlations like this. Scatterplot?

  13. I have always only been interested in men NO taller than 5’8. Taller than that, I assume that their IQ point spread is inversely proportional (yes, I know that’s dumb).
    AND, girlfriend observation discussions suggest that by natural selection, short men have bigger dicks.

    AND, the deal breaker for most women above and beyond height, and income IF less than 1 million has been, and always will be, stupid shoes. White sneakers/top siders are always a clitoral shrivel-ers. IF he does wear them and happens to make more than 1M we just look the other way.

    ALso, the $ thing more often applies to broke ass bitches, such as myself.

    1. @bklynchris

      A salary of $1 million is your cutoff for ignoring substandard fashion choices? Are you royalty? Did you forget to type the word ‘pesos?’ :O

  14. The plural of anecdote is not data, but…

    I was always the shortest kid in my classes at school until my teens, and was still one of the shortest. I was often picked on by other students, year after year, and was sometimes picked on by teachers, and was sometimes beaten up. Now I was not aware of being queer back then, but it’s possible that the bullies were, or it’s possible that they used those insults for everyone they went after. So being queer, being asthmatic, and being short seem like the three most likely causes for the abuse.

    1. That’s rough, I’m sorry to hear about it. People’s prejudices against short people are extremely bizarre.

      True story: when I was 13 I tried out for a regional soccer team (to go to a province-wide tournament). I had played defense my entire life, but this coach refused to let me try out for the position. He told me, without hesitation, that short people were no good for defense, and so I had to try out for midfield or striker. Ultimately, kids who sat on the bench on my town’s team started for the regional team over me because of my height, regardless of who was the better player. It’s nowhere near as bad as physical abuse, but it was certainly disheartening.

  15. @ Blueelm: “The study, still under peer review before publication, analyzed 22,000 online daters and found that women put a premium on income and height when deciding which men to contact”

    @ Bklynchris: not all girls are top-sider haters. I, for one, happen to think they’re cute. And also, have you ever dated a guy who was 6’7″ +? Might blow your genital-size theory out of the water, there…

    @ Caroline: and if you do have tiny feet (mine are midget-feet compared to my height – 6 1/2) then you get mocked by your short/big-footed friends. Not to mention, your sense of balance is messed up.

    In general, from my point of view, it’s not the height of the man that matters so much as his physical fitness. 5’6″ and can pick me up off the floor when I’m asleep? (I’m 5’8) Yes, please (best boyfriend, thus far, was 5’6″ and brilliantly intelligent). 6’6″ and a wheezing mess that can’t climb 4 floors of stairs? Pass. I don’t care how much you make.

  16. Despite being 5’11”, I feel short in today’s society (east coast US). I don’t want to move to a completely foreign culture, so is there a spot in the US where I’d stand a head above? Maybe then I’ll get the ladies…

    1. I’m 5’11” and on the West Coast. I’ve always felt tall. (Not tall, tall, but definitely taller than average.) Don’t know if it is the area or my upbringing (tallest in my family). Also, you say you don’t want to move to a foreign culture, so maybe not.

    2. Dude, are you really showing up among actually short dudes to complain about being 5’11”? If Boing Boing was Jezebel you’d have about 80 replies upbraiding you right now.

      1. Being 5’11” definitely means different things depending on where you live. I’m also 5’11 (maybe even 1/2 to 2/3 an inch more than that) but growing up and living in Western New York I always felt short. Besides most people in my family being at least a little bit taller, some a lot, most other males I knew in high school and college were taller than me. It has nothing to do with growing at different times or anything; I was 5’11 by 7th or 8th grade.

        Now I’m in grad school in California, and I usually feel average height or a little bit taller than average. I suspect east coast vs. west coast height statistics wouldn’t show a huge difference, but it sure seems like it to me – and it’s not just that I feel older and more confident or something; I go back to New York frequently and I still feel short there. Another commenter noted the same thing.

        So while most people here are talking about being short at 5’6 or 5’7, one can be a few inches taller than the national average and still feel short. This apparently wouldn’t hurt us too much in online dating, but who knows – maybe east coast online daters would place the bar a little bit higher.

        One thing about being 5’11 is that you’re just short of the magic 6′ – it’s like putting 99 at the end of a price to make it seem cheaper.

  17. *shrug* I’m about 5’9″ depending on my posture. The only girl I’ve ever had mention it to me was within a half inch one way or the other and mentioned once that she appreciated my confidence and that she couldn’t wear heels around most guys who weren’t tall without them getting uptight about it. My response was something like “huh? You were wearing heels?”

  18. At first I was going to be offended, but frankly no…

    I don’t want to be with a woman that shallow. She’s probably one of the “Marry to divorce and live with the scumbag on ex’s money” types that have really messed up a lot of my friends.

  19. I’m 5’9″ and wish I was six feet. However, at 40 I’m only 165, in great shape, and have all of my hair. As successful as I have been in the dating game at 69″, what would 72″ have been like?

  20. This can only work up to a point. At 6’6″ I could be homeless and just a desirable as someone making six figures or more?

    6’4″ is the upper average – it’s the highest setting you’ll find for things that adjust for you height, it’s the top check box on forms (6’4″+), and it seems to be what everyone designs their clothing, cars, houses, etc. for. So every inch above 6’4″ you are, you lose lots of cool points for wearing clothes that don’t fit right, always bumping your head on things, and having your knees constantly jammed up against dashboards and movie theater and airplane seats.

    After a certain point you’re no longer tall, you’re just a freak.

    1. After a certain point you’re no longer tall, you’re just a freak.

      I, for one, would welcome a new foot-taller-than-me overboyfriend.

  21. Pity the tall woman. A lot of men don’t like dating women taller than they are, for similar reasons. No word on whether income, breast size, or willingness to swallow makes a difference, but I’m sure somebody can fund a study to find out.

    1. I would have loved to date someone taller than I. I did date a women who is 6’3″ and a former mountain rescue, ah,,, what fun. Still a woman 6’4″+ would have been a blast!

    2. Personally, I prefer taller women… though at around 6’1″, I’ve never actually found one. As for income, I’ve never, ever heard of a guy being interested in how much a woman makes. I find it a little weird that this is generally seen as an okay thing for a woman to care about in a guy… it seems incredibly shallow to me, even moreso than caring only about looks. Are these women looking to date their ideal man, or mug him?

  22. Hell — you can get pay raises and promotions by lying about your height at work. I’ve gotten into some near-hostile confrontations with guys who’ve insisted, “Nah, you’ve gotta be 6’4”. I’m 6’2″.” (I’m not too popular among certain people.)

  23. There has been at least one study showing no link between below average height and above average aggression (in fact showing a slight negative correlation). The Napoleon complex thing is just a case of confirmation bias. I, for instance, am 5′-7″ and extremely amiable, while at the same time completely dead inside from years of loneliness. I suppose that is neither here nor there.

  24. Studies have shown this sort of correlation before. I also seem to recall that there was similar study with speed dating I think although I can’t find the study from a quick Google search.

    There’s some evidence that the heavy height selection in our culture is in fact due to is culture rather than genetic. Or at least, there’s evidence that some cultures have much less or no substantial height selection. See for example

    As a human heterosexual male who happens to be 5’1 or so, I find these selection issues intellectually fascinating. Yes, it is bothersome. But only occasionally. When I’m currently dating someone it doesn’t matter. When I’m not dating someone it doesn’t matter most of the time either. It does get annoying when one is turned down in part due to height or explicitly due to height. That said, this seems to happen more and more rarely as I get older. Not completely sure why.

  25. I never rejected someone based on their height in the real world.

    Yeah, as a male, I think height works really, really differently in the real world vs. online world. In the online world (a.k.a. dating sites)–where I’m unwilling to lie about my height, which is 5’6″–I feel like you’re giving some women this information that they will use to judge you more harshly than if they saw you in the real world. I’m not sure, but I feel like my height contributed to my complete lack of responses last time I tried online dating. I edited my profile a good number of times, but no-go. Also I have no hair, and being bald doesn’t help, so who knows what actually was the reason…and I’m sure it was different for everyone. But a lot of women claim these things don’t matter whereas I suspect they do–when you’re talking about online profiles.

    However, In the real world, women *taller* than me–who probably wouldn’t have given my profile a first glance–will give me looks, and I’m a bald short guy. I’m also in good shape and have reasonably decent style, which probably helps, and I have decent facial features. I am clean, etc. I also don’t think about my height or carry myself as if I’m short, I guess (in fact, I don’t really think about it until this sort of discussion comes up). An older female friend of mine once was talking about her short male family members, and how they have this chip on their shoulder about it, and when I told her what my height she was surprised–she said, “you don’t SEEM like a short man.” I thought that was pretty interesting.

    Anyways, all of this is just to say that height, when you are a short hetero male trying to meet ze ladies, seems to have quite an impact online, but doesn’t have to in the real world.

    1. If you wrote thoughtful messages to women you had things in common with you’d probably get a decent response rate, though. Women get far more messages than men on dating sites, anyway, and it’s probably the “ideal” men who are getting most of the unsolicited messages.

  26. Wow, if 5’6 causes a lack of responses, I should probably feel good that I haven’t bothered to try online dating…

  27. I’m 6’4″ and I think that’s the perfect all-around height. Tall but not freakishly so. Only drawback was being too tall to be an astronaut but I got over that years ago.

  28. I’ll buy that the statistic is more or less correct. How many women do you know dating men shorter than they are? I’ll bet you can probably count the number on one hand, and even in those cases the height difference is under 2 inches. In many ways, it sucks to be a short dude, and I speak as one at 5’6. That said, the dating thing isn’t as bad as it sounds.

    To quote one of my personal heroes Nassim Taleb, “Don’t cross a river if it is four feet deep on average.” The point being that the average only tells part of a story. I am pretty sure that for average 6’6 girl to date me I would need to be a millionaire before it was worthwhile. On the other hand, for the average 5’0 girl, dating a guy who towers over her at 5’6 is much less of a turn off.

    My point is that the average is almost meaningless. You have extreme cases that throw the average out of whack, and even when they don’t they don’t express much truth. If you are, like me and 5’6, the solution is not to become a millionaire so that that the average woman will find you attractive despite your height. The solution is to date short than average women.

    All of that said, I do find height discrimination interesting in that it is something that is really easy to measure compared to most other forms of discrimination yet people for the most part care fuck-all about it. Learn that women make 80 cents to the dollar less than man and everyone flips their shit. Learn that men under 5’6 (and heaven pity a man who is 5’0) are in the same boat and put shrug and say ‘meh’.

  29. I am 6 foot tall and I have used dating websites, so this doesn’t perturb me personnally, as much as it annoys me from a theoretical standpoint. I am sure many men are more willing to say that women are superficial gold diggers rather than accept that they have personality flaws or just arent too attractive.

    So I would really like to know how the study controlled for issues like levels of attractiveness amongst the male subjects, as well as favorable and unfavorable personality characteristics, and other issues that are not readily discernable through statistical analysis, but rather by looking at a profile.

    Seeing as all other things are not equal I think that this study is flawed. Furthermore, it has less bearing on real dating. Extrapolating normal human behaviors from dating websites is like analyzing race relations based upon bathroom graffiti.

  30. Online dating, I think for the avg and ugly guys he gets the short end of the stick. For Women, I think they benefit greatly from it, esp if they just wanna have a “Fling” They have alot more choices because guys will be guys. I have to admit I had to settle with the dates I’ve had. The ones that are pretty good looking, ones that I normally can pickup in the bar etc., are not attainable via Online. Women who are online have alot more choices, stats, etc. Coming up to a girl at a bar or wherever, Her attention is only on you, You probably will be more successful in obtaining a better looking girl out in the real world esp if your avg looking then online. Funny thing Is that I am above Avg looking. I can’t believe what avg avg guys have to go through esp online.

  31. I have found that height, to a surprising degree, is relative to where you live. Growing up in California at 5’10” I felt short as all my friends were over 6′. I moved to NYC and suddenly felt tall when I went out. My old NYC roommate grew up feeling average at 5’7″ in Miami, but always complained of feeling like a midget in NYC. He hated that everyone there was so tall! I was happy they were all so short!

    This also seemed to hold true for women as well. As a young man in northern California, my girlfriends were often in the 5’6″-5’10” category, but in New York, I don’t think I ever dated anyone above 5’5″ (and most were more like 5’2″).

    America is a giant melting pot, but it has yet to be evenly stirred. The genetic and ethnic background of various geographical regions are not homogeneous and this is sometimes reflected in local average heights.

  32. Well I’m 6’4″ and unemployed, and keep getting offers from beautiful women, so I can see how this works.

  33. How useful would this info be? So many lie about their age, height, weight with online dating. Were the participants prescreened for shallow requirements? I’ve used online dating a bunch of times and the one thing that matters most (beyond attraction) is compatibility. Looking through profiles can take a lot of time, and the messaging back and forth, to get any idea what they’re like. Using IM or Weopia helps a lot. As much as I’d like my guy to be 6’2″, its not a smart way to decide who you’re going to meet. But I do try the line if they’re shorter than me (5’3″).

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