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If it seemed as if the tall guys got all the girls in high school, it wasn’t your imagination. New research suggests taller men are more likely to marry and tend to have more children than short guys.
What’s behind the phenomenon — whether women prefer taller men or those men are simply more outgoing — is up for debate. But the numbers clearly stack up against shorter guys.
Polish and British scientists studied the medical records of about 3,200 Polish men ages 25 to 60 and found that childless men were on average 1.2 inches shorter than men who had at least one child.
Bachelors were about an inch shorter on average than married men. That was true even after researchers took into account the fact that men’s heights increased in recent decades because of better nutrition and health care.
The records, which were collected in Wroclaw, Poland, from 1983 to 1989, showed that tall men in their 20s, 30s and 40s all had more children than their shorter peers.
Height didn’t seem to matter for men in their 50s. Robin I.M. Dunbar of the University of Liverpool said that is because those men came of age after World War II — a catastrophe that claimed the lives of many Polish men and reduced women’s mating options.
However, Dunbar said the numbers clearly show that women favor taller men — something that other research suggests is true across all cultures.
Out of the military service records of 4,400 men, the researchers excluded men who were abnormally short or tall. The average height of the 3,200 men whose records were part of their final sample was 5-foot-6.
The researchers meant to study men whose height and reproductive success were not so gargantuan, or so small, as to have skewed their results. Their methodology would have excluded someone like Wilt Chamberlain, the 7-foot-1 basketball star who bragged of sleeping with 20,000 women.
While other studies have shown that taller-than-average men have higher incomes and social status than shorter men, this study is the first to demonstrate a direct link between height and reproductive success, said David Buss, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.
Buss, who has written two books on human mating habits, said the female preference for taller males harkens back to the earliest stages of human evolution. That was a time when prehistoric women chose mates who could offer them the best protection and provide for their needs. “This study shows that even in modern times the kind of selection we might think of as prehistoric continues to operate,” he said.
Dunbar said he undertook the research after noticing that in personal ads men advertised their height only if they were tall or taller than average.
“You didn’t see any advertisements saying, ‘I’m 5-foot-3, give me a call,”‘ he said.