Height, Skills, and Labor Market Outcomes in Mexico

Tom Vogl, Princeton University

Researchers have used the positive relationship between height and earnings to shed light on the productivity of health as well as the effect of health on economic growth. A prominent explanation for this relationship is that physical growth and cognitive development share inputs, inducing a correlation between height and both strength and intelligence. This paper uses data from Mexico to examine the skill returns underlying the height premium in poorer countries. Parental socioeconomic status and childhood living conditions are positively associated with height, cognitive skill, and educational attainment in adulthood. Cognitive test scores account for a limited portion of the height premium. However, roughly half of the premium can be attributed to these workers' higher educational attainment or to their more lucrative occupations, which have greater intelligence requirements and lower strength requirements. The height premium may reflect a return to cognitive skill, even in an economy reliant on manual labor.

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Presented in Session 58: Cognition and Aging