Monday, July 13, 2009

Off-topic: Tall men earn more than short men -- where are the cries of discrimination?

This article posits that tall men earn lots more than short men -- $789 more per inch per year. Given the height differences between some men, that can really add up.

The studies at issue seem only to concentrate on men. Perhaps the height wage disparity does not involve women.

How serious is the height wage disparity? According to the study at issue, "height was found to be more important than gender in determining income . . . ."

Now let me ask the obvious: where are the cries of discrimination on behalf of shorter men? And, yes, I know that even reading that sentence will cause some to roll their eyes (you know who I mean). And that's precisely the point: the persons who are rolling their eyes can't possibly defend this wage differential as fair or acceptable, can they? Yet, I am certain, the eye rolling will continue, because they will view this as just a way to distract from the terrible injustices women face.

Instead of treating the height wage gap as a civil rights issue, even the persons behind the study seem to view it in dispassionate, purely clinical terms -- more of a "Ripley's Believe It or Not" curiosity than an issue of justice. They even explain it in sterile terms: "When humans evolved as a species and still lived in the jungles or on the plain, they ascribed leader-like qualities to tall people because they thought they would be better able to protect them," Timothy Judge, a management professor at the University of Florida, said. "Although that was thousands of years ago, evolutionary psychologists would argue that some of those old patterns still operate in our perceptions today."

I would venture to guess that men born with deep, broadcasters' voices earn more than men who aren't. Is that fair? And men with nice hair probably earn more than bald men. Fair? And I'll bet you the list goes on and on and on. It is possible, I suppose, that short men make less than women.

Nevertheless, aside from race, few people are at all concerned about birth characteristics within the male gender that create injustices for lots of men. The only injustices people care about are those attributable to gender -- men vis a vis women.

I would note that injustices attributable to birth characteristics among men extend far beyond wages. As but one example, at big universities, men of average build who have trained hard to become great athletes have a far more difficult time getting athletic scholarships compared to women athletes of average build. This is because the big universities use up their male athletic scholarships on football and basketball, sports decidedly populated by men who are not of average build. If you are a great male tennis player or hockey player or, heaven forbid, wrestler, of average build -- good luck getting a scholarship (and chances are good one or all of those sports would have been cut due to Title IX).

In any event, all of this is merely intended to make the obvious point: The fact that lots of men are losing out to other men in all facets of life due to birth attributes is not even on the radar of our social discourse. That's because the only birth attribute, aside from race, that matters for those who dictate the public discourse on these issues is gender. The height-wage differential study merely underscores that viewing the world through a simplistic gender lens misses out on a host of factors responsible for injustices that won't be rectified simply by focusing on gender.