March 8, 2010

Are people still growing up taller than their parents on average?

When I was a kid, it was noticeable that young people were taller on average than their parents: better nutrition, antibiotics, and all that. You could see that there was a difference between the generations in average height from evidence all around you, the great majority of which was in agreement: not just government statistics and scientific opinion, but daily life, sports, celebrity culture, and business innovations all suggested the Baby Boom generation was growing up taller than their parents. You could believe your lying eyes.

It was an early introduction for me to questions of statistical evidence. I'm a statistical omnivore. A lot of pundits aren't -- they suggest it's in bad taste to notice patterns until a blue ribbon commission has certified them (and then they usually try hard to ignore the findings of the blue ribbon commission).

For me, though, you can find evidence everywhere. If 7-1 Wilt Chamberlain could average 50 points per game in 1962 by being more gigantic than everybody else, but by 1972 he couldn't, that suggests something.

In the 1970s, it was assumed that the future of basketball was ever-taller players: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (7-2) was taller than Wilt, and Magic Johnson was a 6-9" point guard as a rookie in 1979.

Or, 6'4" and 235 pound Los Angeles Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel (who, interestingly, was Filipino on his father's side) was famous for his immense size during the early years of his NFL career (1962-1977). Late in his career, that didn't get mentioned as much.

In 1962, 5-10 Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford went 25-4. Today, only about 5% of major league innings are now pitched by pitchers between 5-10 or 5-11 (no big league pitcher in 2008 was shorter than 5-10). (Yes, Pedro Martinez is only 5-11, but then he's Pedro Martinez.)

But, it's not as obvious anymore that people are continuing to get taller from generation to generation in America.

NBA players don't appear to have gotten taller over the last 20+ seasons. In the 2008 season, the average height in the NBA was 6-6.98, down from 6.736 in 1986. (However, players have the right to be listed either with their heights measured either with their shoes on or off, which makes a difference of about 1" to 1.5" -- I don't know whether there has had any effect.)

Similarly, high school seniors aren't clearly taller on average than their parents or teachers, as you used to notice.

So, I can't tell from incidental data whether people are now getting modestly taller or are staying the same size. Thus, we need blue ribbon data for this.

The government periodically collects "anthropometric" data on a large sample of people. By comparing the 1988-1994 study to the 2003-2006 study, we can see that over this 13.5 year (on average) stretch, young men of each race tended to be a little less than half an inch taller. In 1988-1994, non-Hispanic white men of age 20-39 averaged 5-9.95 versus 5-10.4 in 2003-2006, for an increase of 0.45 inches. That suggests a growth rate of about 1 inch per generation in recent years.

Among blacks 20-39, average height has grown from 5-9.75 to 5-10.1.

Among Mexican Americans, from 5'7.0 to 5-7.2. (Immigration tends to keep Mexican height down.)

So, I think the explanation for height stalling out in the NBA is that the influx of foreign players is balanced off by the decline in the number of U.S. born white players. The NBA's American players are drawn from a more limited population today (essentially, African-Americans) than in the past, so players have gotten a little shorter.

In 1972, the future of the NBA was assumed to be ever taller Kareems throwing in unblockable Sky Hooks. My guess is that better coaching has somewhat neutralized the huge advantage that giant centers had in the earlier days of the NBA, but I'm not convinced of this, mostly because nobody ever figured out how to neutralize Kareem himself. He was 3rd in the MVP voting as a rookie in 1970, went on to win six MVPs, and was fifth in the MVP voting as late as 1986. He was Finals MVP in 1985.

Kareem was kind of boring, but he was just insanely effective. So, I'm still baffled why there weren't more tall, thin, hook shot-shooting centers after him. When young, Kareem wasn't considered so much a once-in-a-lifetime freak of nature as The Next Stage in the process. But there hasn't really been a Next Stage since then.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

69 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Kareem was kind of boring, but he was just insanely effective. So, I'm still baffled why there weren't more tall, thin, hook shot-shooting centers after him."

Because a good hook shot is VERY hard to develop. Most 7 foots just arent that coordinated.

Further you can't throw it up if someone has a hip on you cause they will throw you off balance. Defense by mugging has become allowed in the NBA in recent years.

So you have to be mobile and fsst enough to get space. Or just strong enough that you can power through someones. Coordinated enough to develop a hook shot....and really friggin tall...rare rare rare combo.

Anonymous said...

Everyone thinks they are, but middle aged people (especially women) start to lose height.

American height has been roughly flat since the 1960's or so.

Anonymous said...

Maybe things have topped out? There are limits to how tall a human being can be, after all, and there is probably a limit to the average.

It could be another sign that progress topped out in the late 1960s.

Yusuf Ignobutu

Reactionary said...

Anecdotally, I think they still are for my generation X. There seems to be a persistent curve for advances in nutrition, fitness and natal care thru the 1980's.

Re: the NBA, there's probably a sweet-spot ratio between athleticism and height. Kareem and Wilt are outliers; most extremely tall people are ungainly.

Re: fitness, crossfit.com is steepening the learning curve yet again. I remember my dad and I gasping for breath after a set of cleans and he looked at me and said why did we ever think weight training wasn't cardio?

Anonymous said...

The Height Gap

Why Europeans are getting taller and taller - and Americans aren’t.

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/04/05/040405fa_fact

Couchscientist said...

I've seen studies indicating that taller men tend to be more successful with the opposite sex, having more marriages, etc. I always assumed that translated into more offspring, which would also contribute to a population getting taller. Certainly outlying tall men - say 6'4- verses outlying short men - say 5'2 - would be more likely to breed. Height is to some extent correlated with IQ and earnings, though, and the trend seems to be higher IQ and $ having fewer kids. Would like to see the stats.

Anonymous said...

It would appear the the increase in height is leveling off, at least in the US. I just returned from Holland, however, and it's amazing to me how tall the younger generation of Dutch are. I'm hardly a short man ( a little over 5'11"), but I felt like a midget over there! Interesting, because a century ago the Dutch were considered the shortest people in Europe.

Anonymous said...

Very odd that Kareem is the last and only guy to use the sky hook. Anyone else? Magic to win game 5 vs Celts in 1985. Is it considered effeminite looking? I could see that.

Dan in DC

Anonymous said...

The observed decline in mean NBA height is likely caused by two factors: first, rule changes over the last few years, specifically the no hand checking rule, have favored small, ultra quick point guards. Chris Paul, his back up Collison, Aaron Brooks, Ty Lawson, Brandon Jennings, Jameer Nelson, Rondo...I could go on, the point being that there is a distinct advantage to having a 5'10" to 6'1" PG these days. If you go back say 15 years, you had guys like Derek Harper, Doc Rivers, Sam Cassell, Gary Payton, Brian Shaw, Afernee Hardaway...guys 6'3" and up playing at the PG position. These were big guards that used size to hand check and hold and grab--the more physical (in some ways) 90s basketball.

The other change I would attribute to current Knicks and former Suns coach Mike D'Antoni, which is introducing more early offense and a lot more three point shooting. Whereas the 90s were a physical, grind out it, slow it down game, the current league requires a high level of skill at all positions. There is generally, but not always, diminishing skill with height, so you tend to favor the smaller, skill players these days.

While there hasn't been an increasing at the extreme tall end of the spectrum (there is the 7'6" Yao and the 7'3" Thabeet, but most 7 footers are right around 7' to 7'1" these days), there has been an increase at the wing positions (SG and SF) and the PF position. So you'll note, for example, Kobe Bryant is routinely guarded by bigger players. He is 6'6", but Sunday, for example, he was guarded most of the game by 6'7" UCLA alum Matt Barnes. He often faces guys who are 6'7" to 6'9". This is in stark contrast to Michael Jordan who often had an advantage in height of an inch or two at the same position. Small forwards now often come around 6'9"--Kevin Durant, or Rudy Gay, Andre Kirilenko, or even 6'10" Anthony Randolph or Gallanari. And PFs often come in at 7 feet: Dirk Nowitzski, Pau Gasol, or 6'11" Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan.

So my guess is that the slight increase at the SG/SF/PF positions is brought down by the proliferation of small point guards (thank you Nate Robinson), and thus you wind up with a slight decrease in mean over time. That said, height still matters--this is one reason for the success of the Lakers who field three giants with ridiculously long wingspans, but speed kills--again, the Lakers, with an aging, amazingly slow 36 year old PG get killed by blazingly fast very small point guards. Smarts don't hurt either, which explains the continued success of 35 year old Steve Nash, who is short, slow and completely lacking in NBA level athleticism.

dearieme said...

If height were all, you'd be recruiting Dutchmen.

Figgy said...

As the parent of a HS Freshman just starting his high school basketball experience, I can tell you why there are no hook shot artists anymore - it's not cool !!! I've tried suggesting to some of these kids that they develop a hook shot and they look at me like I'm the most out of touch human being on the planet. You can get away with suggesting the "jump hook", which is kind of a combo between a hook and a jump shot, but the hook shot itself is taboo.

As for the absence of slender types these days, there has been a gradual relaxing of the contact rules in basketball over the decades since Kareem ruled the hardwood inside the paint. Guys are allowed to bang each other to an (in my opinion anyway) ugly degree which takes away from the artistry of the game. This helped to enable the amazing success of Shaq during his zenith. He might have eclipsed Jabbar's scoring record but the very thing which helped bring him such effectiveness, massive bulk, is now serving to bring him down. It's very tough for human legs to support 350 pounds doing that much activity for that many years.

And Kareen WAS indeed perhaps a boring player; a bit one dimensional on offense and not very emotional. However, in addition to his physical gifts (7-2 and coordinated), he was very bright and well schooled in all aspects of the big man's game. I'd guess that he wouldn't be as sucessful in today's push and shove game but he would still be a very good, or great, player. He knew what he was doing out there.

Anonymous said...

On the great nature/nurture divide, what happened to the NBA [and to American basketball in general] is 100% nurture - the de facto [and often even the de jure] rules of the game were altered in the mid- to late-1980s, and the sport [at least as played in the United States*] has never been the same.

Unless maybe you want to invoke Murray's Footnote #44 [and then you can argue about the great nexus of the nature/nurture divide].



*Note that FIBA-rules basketball is a completely different creature from NCAA- & NBA-rules basketball.

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering that for YEARS.. why don't players use the freaking hook shot? Kareem Abdul Jabbar only scored 37,000 point with it! I have a feeling it's cause hook shots don't make Sportscenter's top plays.

OhioStater said...

I'd propose a novel explanation: shorter females have become more attractive and taller females have become less attractive.

A guy needs clear physical dominance over a woman if he can't establish financial or political dominance.

Dutch Boy said...

The NBA widened the key to make sure that the Wilt Chamberlain types couldn't score at will.

Anonymous said...

What about women? I'm 45 and at about six feet tall it was a fairly rare occurrence for me to run into a woman of my age group to be as tall or taller than I am. But over the last few years I began to notice how normal it is for me to see a woman in her late teens or twenties who is taller than I am.

As far as the NBA goes, I think we might have reached the optimal size level for the game. While height is a great advantage, the game still requires a base level of reflexes and coordination that I think pretty clearly diminish with size. I read somewhere the hypothesis that the distance that nerve impulses have to travel to react in time to make the appropriate movements becomes too great. So even if a larger portion of the population is exceeding 7 feet versus a couple of decades ago, maybe they just get weeded out and NBA stats won't tell the whole story.

Haven't NFL linemen gotten a lot taller over the last generation?

Professor Hale said...

I do not know the answer to this. I would posit that you would need to control for changes from one generation to another. For instance, as people age, they achieve a max height and then get shorter. So a child next to his parent may be taller, but not as tall as that parent when he was at his peak. Such long term studies of humans tend to produce observations of no real benefit and cost a lot to do.

I am not sure how relevent the NBA figures are since they are by definition looking at statistical freaks and height alone is not the determining factor for being in the club. There are likely other taller men not playing basketball.

It is a common myth that the colonists in pre-constitutional America were of short stature. The furniture sizes and door frames support this hypothesis. But skeleton sizes and physical descriptions refute this. So door frames and skeletons may have been constructed small for economic reasons rather than anthropomorphic reasons. It is hard to say.

But I think we are a long way from declaring that Humanity is getting taller.

Aaron said...

I haven't watched an NBA game in a decade, but in the 90s, the defense was allowed to play so rough (think Riley's Knicks, and all those 72-69 games) that a guy built like Kareem would have been shooting those skyhooks from 15-20 feet away, or not getting the ball in the first place because he was busy picking himself up off the ground. To thrive in the paint, a center had to be tall and big enough to shove his way in there, like Shaq.

In Kareem's day, you could get called for having your hand on your man's back as he backed down toward the basket, and hitting his arm at all as he went for the shot was sure to be a foul. It was a different game.

Art said...

The sky hook is a very hard shot to master. To be as effective as Kareem at it, you must be at least seven feet tall, agile, well-coordinated, with excellent eye-hand coordination, and willing to practice the shot for a couple of hours per day, every day for several years. Well-coordinated, agile seven footers can become rich playing pro basketball without spending the many hours needed to practice sky hooks, and hence may lack sufficient incentive to do that.

Anthony said...

It's interesting that the 95% percentile by height for black men 20-29 is barely higher than it is for white men, even though my observations (living in and near Oakland) is that black men have a wider distribution of heights that white men.

Also interesting: black women have higher BMI than white women, but black men have lower BMI than white men.

Anonymous said...

For me, though, you can find evidence everywhere. If 7-1 Wilt Chamberlain could average 50 points per game in 1962 by being more gigantic than everybody else, but by 1972 he couldn't, that suggests something.

All basketball players decline over that long of a period.

Anonymous said...

what makes you think that "better" nutrition makes people taller? I remember reading that wheat consumption makes people taller and I wouldn't call wheat better nutrition.

SF said...

http://www.mortgageindustrydiversity.com/

This is off topic. For some reason I got an email promoting a conference on diversity in mortgage lending. They're still at it.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there's some built in genetic limitation as to how large the human organism can get even under optimum conditions. It doesn't seem people could get continue growing without some parallel changes of the internal organs to support it.

Simon said...

Hmm, those blue ribbon height numbers all look about an inch taller than I'd expect, from visiting America and comparing Americans of those races to me (5'7" Latinos? I was in Mexican parts of San Francisco, I'd think 5'6" was generous). Are those male heights self-certified figures? >:)

joe said...

Without any evidence, my speculation is that people will continue to get taller, albeit in a slower rate. This is because there is evolutionary pressure from the dating scene to select taller people(at least men).

Anonymous said...

One reason might be Shaq, who was flashy, exciting and destructive (he broke a lot of backboards). He's the big, tall man.

Too bad he couldn't hit 2 out of 3 free throws. If he managed that, he'd have more championships. 3/4, and he'd be considered one of the greatest of all time.

If you're big like Shaq, dunking the ball is easier than practicing sky-hooks, and you get more cred for dunking than fading away. Maybe it's machismo (and it isn't just a black thing, whites will showboat too).

The thing is, Kareem had an incredibly long career because of the sky hook. Shaq is fading away at a time when Kareem was still competing with the best. Long-term, the sky hook is a great investment.

Conan the Grammarian said...

I don't know the exact genetic term for this, but perhaps we have reached the outer limit of the breed. Great Danes can only get so big; we can't make them as big as a horse. Similarly, humans will tend to bump up against genetics. Does this make sense?

Marc B said...

First and second generation Chinese/Korean Americans are still quite a bit taller than their parents, regularly approaching or surpassing six feet. While nutrition is a huge factor in height, there are limitations set by the DNA, and good nutrition only allows you to get closest to attaining individual genetic maximum.

The Dutch are currently the tallest population group after being among the shortest Europeans before 1900. Good nutrition has apparently unleashed their inner giant. If the US is seemingly lacking in stature, I would suggest the over-processed foods, fluoridated water, GM crops, and ground water tainted with large concentrations of environmental estrogen (particularly in the Southeastern and Mid Southern US) all could be playing a factor.

chapin disciple said...

This was a weirdly disjointed essay. I didn't expect you to go off onto a tangent about the NBA.

I have read that there is widespread evidence that Americans are not growing taller each generation (unlike the Dutch) and that Americans are no longer the tallest nationals in the world (this was the case through much of the 20th century, apparently). See for example this two year old article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/12/AR2007081200809.html

There are other more recent articles that you can google.

What do you think caused this? Is this some statistical fluke because we continue to accept immigrants (who then, whether legal or illegal, become Americans) or do you think that there is something else at work here?

You've commented in the past about how the absence or presence of micronutrients makes a huge difference in IQ development--perhaps the same is true of size?

acy said...

I read that black women were about half an inch shorter than the previous generation. Hypothesized causes, earlier puberty, less physical activity.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/05/AR2009010501905.html

Tommy Etelamaki said...

I'm pretty sure Tim Lincecum and Roy Oswalt (both great pitchers) are < 5'10". There was a bias in MLB against short pitchers for a long time, but it's slowly eroding. The Astros had some success in the last decade exploiting this bias and picking up Oswalt, Octavio Dotel, Tim Redding.

David Gaasko studied the issue of size in baseball and concluded that short and squat pitchers tend to do better than their tall and lanky brethren:

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/does-size-matter-part-5/

This was not true for hitters, however, as you might expect.

DCThrowback said...

When I was stationed in Korea back in 2001, we had heard that due to two generations of malnutrition and other causes, in the two generations since the Armistice was signed, the average South Korean male was 2 inches taller than the average North Korean. In 50 years! I have no info to back it up, but given the difference in cultures, it certainly makes sense.

jody said...

euro americans are not getting taller anymore, they're not getting smarter anymore either. they actually might be getting dumber now. a 1 or 2 point drop in mean IQ seems realistic in the next 2 decades as the dysgenic trends flourish.

euro europeans continue to get smarter and taller at a steady pace, from what i can tell. the mean euro IQ in some nations is like 103 now. the UK might be the exception, where dysgenic trends are widespread and the white underclass continue to grow.

when it comes to europeans in canada and australia i can't really say one way or the other. i tend to think they are also still getting taller and smarter but i'm not sure.

this topic is naturally highly HBD loaded. mestizos from mexico living in the US will have kids who are 2 inches taller, though they will never be tall, and in fact it seems like they will be even fatter.

athletes in all sports are still getting taller. the NBA average of 6-7 is about 1 inch taller than the point at which human men begin to really trade balance and hand eye coordination for height and limb length, which is around 6-6. maybe that's the limiting factor on the sport where height plays it's most important role.

2010 NBA draft number 2 overall pick hasheem thabeet was sent down to the NBDL, and looks like a major bust. at 7-3, he was drafted on height and "potential" alone (not uncommon in the NBA, but less common when taking a player so high). he is the highest draft pick to ever be demoted from the NBA.

in other sports the players keep getting taller. in every sport the players keep getting stronger and heavier, though in the NFL, lots of the heavier players are now simply fatter and not stronger. virtually of these players are black americans, who are also the fattest group of americans.

jody said...

in soccer, tennis, boxing, track, and swimming, many of the modern athletes are huge and much bigger than players from 20 years ago. size does not even seem useful in soccer, but some of the players are really tall now.

the fastest sprinter in france is a 19 year old named christophe lemaitre, who ran the 100 meters in 10.04 last year. he's 6-3, which is far too tall for a sprinter, using conventional ideas about track.

there are europeans in boxing, kickboxing, and MMA who are 6-10 or 6-11, which seems too tall to still be coordinated enough to reach the highest level of a combat sport, yet they're pretty good.

Stir the Pot said...

Americans (all races) are obviously getting shorter due to 3rd world immigration, as a quick look around LA will show. As the gov't increasingly places non-Euro
types with whites (India, Arabia, Iran, etc) the white average will drop too.

If the average American male's height (all races) was 5'9" in 1964, before the 3rd world flood tide, then its dropped significantly since then. Nutrition for native-born whites & blacks is no better now than then, so those groups are about the same.

And while 3rd world immigrants' kids are taller than they are due to better nutrition, their kids are still several inches shorter than US whites or blacks.

With all the 3rd world immigration in LA (Latin America, E/W/S Asia, etc) I'd be surprised if the average male height here is over 5'6".

Same thing with US IQ. If the UK whites' average is 100, then US whites should be about the same. E Asian IQ might be a little higher, but the US average is weighted down by the 30%+ of the US that's black or Hispanic.

Average US IQ now is probably under 95.

Anonymous said...

When I occasionally visit the Netherlands and Belgium. I notice both the extreme height of the younger generation (you can still see some middle-aged dutch who are well below the American average). In addition it seems that the youth are not completed puberty until a later stage. This is just from random observations of University students. Since I live in a college down in the U.S. my observatino is that U.S. college aged students have an older (more finished look).

Now when I look at very old family photos (or historical photos from before the first world war). Americans still were not done increasing in height and note that 25 year old men would look like todays 40 year old.

Anecdotal, but I'd love to see more research on this paradox.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Here’s a paper putting the NHANES (and earlier government) anthropometric survey data in 5 year birth year cohorts:
http://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/1241/1/underperformance.pdf

(Warning, the author is highly politicized and is constantly attempting to prove Americans need to adopt European social policies, but his data is useful – if only we had a public health system as good as Holland we’d be as tall as them. I guess people from the Dinaric Alps are even taller than the Dutch because Montenegro, Hezegovina, and parts of Albania and Croatia are even more affluent and have a better health system than Holland!)

Anyway, it appears that white males kept getting noticeable taller between the 1910 and 1950 birth cohorts, when they hit 5’10” and remained there until those born after 1975 had a little blip up to 5’10.5”. Black males kept getting taller until 1965 birth cohort, and have since remained stagnant.

There’s older data (mostly from military personel) which show longer term trends. US white males born in the 18th C. (French and Indian and Revolutionary war soldiers), averaged about 5’7.75”. In white men born in the 1st half of the 19th C. were even taller (about 5’8.5”), then, as the US industrialized, heights declined in the 2nd half of the 19th C. (bottoming out at 5’7”), then increased during the 20th C. again. US white soldiers in WWI averaged 5’7.75”, WWII 5’8.5”, the Korean War 5’8.9” and Vietnam 5’9.9”.

Re Baseball pitchers, there’s an old Sports Illustrated article from the early 2000s where they write about pitching and the advantages (higher release point closer to the plate makes the ball seem faster and harder to time for the hitter, longer levers mean more velocity and less stress on the pitchers joints and connective tissue at a given throwing velocity) and disadvantages (larger arcs mean slower delivery (i.e., easier to steal on) and also that small hitches in a pitcher’s mechanics result in bigger deviations/poor control). The article also pointed out that overall tall pitchers have the advantage in theory, in the previous 10 years (i.e., 90s and early 2000s), the only listed heights where pitchers had on average a winning record were 5’11”, 6’, 6’1”, and 6’10” (Randy Johnson by himself). The article theorized that this was mainly due to the facts that there are simply so many more people around these heights and, say over 6’4” and the fact that managers tend to see “potential” in tall pitchers and will give them 2nd, 3rd chances, etc., whereas a 5’11” or 6’ pitcher that has a rough patch on his way up will be stereotyped as “too small” and given up on.

Re Basketball players, here’s nba draft express’ summary of the NBA measurements (like the NFL combine) by position:

http://www.draftexpress.com/nba-pre-draft-measurements/?page=avepos&year=All

Average height ranges from 6’0.5” for point guards to 6’10” for centers. The bench press reps are with 185 lbs. – NBA players are really weak. Interesting, none of the positions have hops like NFL running backs (no step vert is the sergeant test, and the best averages are 29.7” for SGs and SFs). Unfortunately, I can’t find any equivalent site that has sum functions for the NFL combine, but I looked at the top 5 rushers and any other RB that made the Pro Bowl, plus Tomlinson, Westbrook (due to their outstanding careers) and Sproles (because he’s the current scat back par excellence). They were (with sergeant test in parenthesis): Brian Westbrook (37), Chris Johnson (35), Steven Jackson (37.5), Thomas Jones (NA), Maurice Jones-Drew (36), Adrian Peterson (38.5), Ray Rice (39.5), DeAngelo Williams (35.5), Frank Gore (34), Darren Sproles (33), Ladanian Tomlinson (40.5). (Avg.: 36.65) This group of RBs ranged in height from 5’6 1/8” to 6’1 ½” and weighed between 187 and 231. (Average was 5’9.6”and 209).

Anonymous said...

cont'd

It’s also interesting to note how rare true (barefoot) 7-footers are in the draft. See here for stats by year: http://www.draftexpress.com/nba-pre-draft-measurements/?page=&year=2009&sort2=DESC&draft=0&pos=0&sort= . There generally aren’t more than 0 to 3 per year. Also, when going down the list by height you get to 6’9” very quickly.

New Yorker is a Porker said...

The Height Gap

Why Europeans are getting taller and taller - and Americans aren’t.

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/04/05/040405fa


This is pure Gladwellian BS. It basically concludes with 'Europe has socialized medicine!!'

So does Japan, so how come Japanese are shorter than us?

And the article refuses to admit there are racial differences in height. Germanic peoples are naturally taller than indigenous American natives. Blacks are taller than Asians. Typical of liberal NYer to fudge those matters in its supreme PC-ness.

Chopper said...

I don't know about height but Americans have been getting bigger sideways.
I heard that over-eating in early age depresses height since it release growth hormones too fast in the younger yrs.

By the way, even if the future of the NBA wasn't defined by skinny Kareems, there was the rise of big muscular guys like Malone(jerk who looks like Rodney King), Barkley, and Shaq.
Height isn't everything. China has its share of very tall people but they are so gaunt--all skin and bones, no muscle and no beefy size. They are tall Star Trek geeks than big strong athletes.

Anonymous said...

“The Height Gap - Why Europeans are getting taller and taller - and Americans aren’t.”

Beware of the conclusion relying on the conclusions of Komlos – he has an agenda. If you actually look at the data from the relevant national statistical agencies, most 1st world/non-former eastern bloc European countries have also stagnated in height, as have Americans (though the increases usually stop in the 80s or 90s, not 70s birth cohorts). Also, Komlos likes to focus on Dutch, Germans and Scandinavians, who are taller than their white American Counterparts (184cm, 180cm, and 180-1cm, respectively vs. 179cm). However, he ignores other first world European Nations whose young adult males are the same or shorter than Americans (Austria (179cm), UK, Switzerland, Greece, (all 178cm), Ireland, France (both 177cm), Spain (176cm) and Italy (177cm North/174cm South). He also ignores poor-former Communist countries that are taller than Americans (Czech Republic (180cm), Dinaric Alps (186cm – taller than the Dutch), Lithuania (181cm).

“I've seen studies indicating that taller men tend to be more successful with the opposite sex, having more marriages, etc. I always assumed that translated into more offspring, which would also contribute to a population getting taller.”

True, but studies also show that shorter women tend to have more children than tall women, so the pressure is working in both directions.

“Interesting, because a century ago the Dutch were considered the shortest people in Europe.”

More Komlos squid ink. First of all, the figure of 165cm quoted for 19th C. Dutchmen wasn’t short by European standards of the time and, second, it is based on 18 or 19 year old military conscripts – poorer nutrition back then delayed puberty and it took people much longer in past ages to reach their full stature (most men back then kept growing until their mid 20s). Those 165cm 19 year olds would have probably been around 170cm by their mid 20s. This accords with other 19th C. anthropometric surveys I’ve seen for older samples of 19th C. Dutchmen. Also, for most of recorded history the inhabitants of the Low Countries were relatively tall. Skeletal evidence points to an average male stature of around 174-5 cm in Roman times and about 173-4 cm in the Dark Ages/Early Middle Ages.

“[Kobe Bryant] is 6'6"…7 feet: Dirk Nowitzski”

NBA figures are usually height in shoes, rounded up. In reality, Kobe is 6’4.75”, Dirk is 6’10”. Still pretty damn tall.

“Haven't NFL linemen gotten a lot taller over the last generation?”

Yes, in the 1960s the Average NFL Lineman was 6’3” and weighed 246 lbs. Based on my examination of combine stats, today, Centers are about 6’3.5”, 310 lbs., Guards 6’4”, 320 lbs., and Tackles are about 6’5.5”, 320 lbs.

“Hmm, those blue ribbon height numbers all look about an inch taller than I'd expect, from visiting America and comparing Americans of those races to me (5'7" Latinos? I was in Mexican parts of San Francisco, I'd think 5'6" was generous). Are those male heights self-certified figures? >:)”

The NHANES data are measured, not self-reported (as is the case for Eurostat Anthropometric surveys). They are for native born, so the figure of 5’7” for Mexicans is for those born in the US, not border crossers who grew up in Mexico.

“euro americans are not getting taller anymore, they're not getting smarter anymore either… euro europeans continue to get smarter and taller at a steady pace, from what i can tell. the mean euro IQ in some nations is like 103 now.”

The first statement is true, but the second isn’t. The Dutch and Scandinavians aren’t getting taller anymore either and the Flynn effect has stopped there too.

ricpic said...

Jews, in this area, as in many others, buck the trend. Many brilliant Jews are short.

Figgy said...

The NY Times "explained" why Europe has caught up to the USA regarding average height in an editorial several months back - it's the universal health care those lucky Europeans have! No sources were cited; it was just declared probable by the opinion writer, and heck, it must be true if the Times prints it.

Of course, they failed to explain why Australia, with universal health care of its own, has also been caught by Europe.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should look at the New Yorker article.

Fascinating data that turns out to have extremely interesting implications.


The authors note that the studies comparing Dutch men to American men take ethnicity into account, but I'm a bit skeptical. Anyone who has been to nations that provided a lot of white American stock (Britain, Holland, Germany) knows they look different than American whites--ie in this context that they are biologically "whiter." Fairer skin, lighter hair, lighter eyes and probably some subtle structural differences in the face and body.

We're not talking about apples and oranges, but it would be fairly easy to distinguish--on the basis of natural physical appearance (controlling for things like ridiculous European haircuts, effete clothing, etc.)--a group of 20 Northern Europeans from a group of 20 American whites purportedly of Northern European heritage.

The why of this is somewhat puzzling. It would be easy to dismiss this notion if I were just talking about ethnic places like LA, but I remember getting singled out for my fair skin by kids who all had names like Smith when I spent summers at the pool of my South Carolina country club.

Is it just that "German" Americans married girls named Smith who were 1/8 Native American, and their "German" kids married people who were 1/4 Italian, etc. until a subtle standard of "American" whiteness gradually emerged?


I can't really give much of an argument here besides the experiential one. I think anyone who has been to Europe recently would have noticed this same phenomenon, whether they live in a particularly vibrant Manhattan neighborhood or a thoroughly German town in Missouri.


If anyone has had a different experience traveling through Britain or Denmark* or wherever, I'd be interested to hear it.




*My sister judged Copenhagen fun but annoying--the women were gorgeous and she was no longer special for being tall, fair and naturally blonde.

MilkandBread said...

I have never understood why people automatically assume that better nutrition leads to greater height. Who is to say that people who average 6'4 in height have had better nutrition than people who average 5'11? There are some very healthy, long lived and short populations out there. In fact, it could turn out that a diet conducive to health and longevity results in lower height! (Caloric restriction, methionine restriction...)

And, as I was browsing though the March issue of Vogue, I came upon an article about the new crop of beautiful Dutch models, where one of them says: "We eat healthy with our simple bread and potatoes and cheese. We are definitely a healthy bunch of people." I dunno about that! Northern European diets tend to be very heavy on bread (wheat) and dairy. Some nutrients might make you taller, but do they make you healthier?

devolved said...

Anonymous: keep in mind that America is a further south than most of Europe and gets a lot more sun. Nonetheless, I've noticed the same thing, especially amongst the white lower classes, which isn't surprising.

Anonymous said...

You guys live in places like California, New York, and the South where there's a lot of short people.

In the German Midwest, average height for men is probably right on 5'11" as it is in Germany. I'm 5'7" to 5'8" and there were maybe 3 or 4 other guys in my high school class of 300+ who were shorter than me. Whereas in college at Cornell I passed easily for average height.

And in Dutch Western Michigan it's probably about 6'.

CJ said...

Here's an amusing 1954 video of the 17-year-old Wilt Chamberlain. Note the short shorts and the narrow 3-second zone (this video is so old it's still a rectangle and not the "key" shape that came next)

Wilt Chamberlain at 17

ironrailsironweights said...

Now when I look at very old family photos (or historical photos from before the first world war). Americans still were not done increasing in height and note that 25 year old men would look like todays 40 year old.

Consider this 1937 photo depicting a group of Minnesota lumberjacks. Most of them appear to be well into middle age, sometimes almost on the verge of old age. The point is, given the nature of the job they probably weren't all that old - they just looked old beyond their years.

Peter

Anonymous said...

You should also factor in which groups have been the most reproductive. Catholic whites have had more and continue to have more babies than average whites. traditional Catholic groups -Irish and Italians- are shorter than the general stock. Now their share of that stock should be increasing and with that increase, white height should fall.

Anonymous said...

“When I occasionally visit the Netherlands and Belgium. I notice both the extreme height of the younger generation (you can still see some middle-aged dutch who are well below the American average). In addition it seems that the youth are not completed puberty until a later stage.”

According to Evelyth and Tanner’s “Wordwide Variation in Human Growth” 2 Ed. N. Europeans mature later and finish growing later than Southern Europeans (and this largely accounts for their difference in adult heights). This difference persists for Australians of N. and S. European descent born and raised in Australia. The US white population isn’t purely N. European, but a mixture from all parts of Europe.

“Everyone should look at the New Yorker article…The authors note that the studies comparing Dutch men to American men take ethnicity into account, but I'm a bit skeptical.”

You are right to be skeptical. That article relies on the work of John Komlos. He just treats white Americans and Dutch as equivalent. They clearly are not, but being a good multi-culti socialist, it would be unthinkable for him that valued traits could differ between populations due to genetic reasons. To adapt a line from S.J. Gould, “say 10 times before breakfast” that there could not be any differences in genetic potential for height from people from different parts of Europe.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who has been to nations that provided a lot of white American stock (Britain, Holland, Germany) knows they look different than American whites--ie in this context that they are biologically "whiter." Fairer skin, lighter hair, lighter eyes and probably some subtle structural differences in the face and body."

I don't think I agree with that. I was struck in Britain and Germany (Frankfurt and south) how much darker Europeans seemed to me than mainstream (British/German/Irish) whites in the US. The number of brunette Germans in Frankfurt was surprising to me. Southern Germans appear not to be Germanic at all but rather Germanized Celts. There are lots of brunette, brown eyed English people on the London Tube as well.

Anonymous said...

We have a ton of Guatemalans in our town. They are tiny. Every night I drive home and see eight year olds smoking cigars strolling down the sidewalk and realize that they are full grown men.

Anonymous said...

Carbs (due to their insulin inducing properties) and dairy (usually hormone-laden) are primarily responsible for height once appropriate nutrition is achieved.

Examples:
- Dutch people are really tall, and they consume vast amounts of dairy.
- The Japanese have been getting taller since their diet became more Westernized (i.e.: more carbs and dairy).

Gains in the US are no longer realizable, as the excess carbs and dairy after a certain amount (probably reached somewhere between the 60s and 80s) only leads to obesity, not additional height.

Anonymous said...

From my Experience in Belgium (and to some extent the Belgium). The tallness factor is not necessarily correlated with classical nordic experience. Based upon my anecdotes, I still see typicall 5'10" American high school students with a ruggedness of build (and classic skull shape) that is not to be found in some of the European counterparts. I think there is just something odd about the facial morphology of some of those in the low countries (no offense, but strikingly primitive sometims).

lcj said...

"For me, though, you can find evidence everywhere. If 7-1 Wilt Chamberlain could average 50 points per game in 1962 by being more gigantic than everybody else, but by 1972 he couldn't, that suggests something."

Honestly Mr. Sailer, you are a brilliant guy, but this may be the dumbest thing I have ever read.

It suggests he spent 10 years dragging his 7-1 inch body up and down a hard court floor and he had destroyed his knees and ankles. Every big man in history after 10 years couldn't get off the floor any more.

An the Kareem thing was almost as bad. You are baffled why there werent' more tall thin hook-shooting centers?

Like the other guy said, because it is VERY hard to develop those skills and they guy worked his tail off. Why is it that so many people cannot grasp that truly great basketball players worked very hard to develop their skills.

Anonymous said...

As far as baseball pitchers are concerned, a 6'7" white pitcher, with a sleeve length up around 40 inches, is going to have a MASSIVE advantage in pitching arm torque/angular momentum over a 5'7" Central American aboriginal with a sleeve length in the 30s or high 20s.

If the 6'7" guy's pitching shoulder and pitching elbow can take the force generated by his pitching motion [i.e. as long as his tendons and ligaments aren't ripped apart by the stress of 90+ MPH fastballs], then the 5'7" guy can never compete with him [unless maybe the 5'7" guy can bench press 500 or 750lbs, to make up for his lack of torque/angular momentum].

Simon said...

anon:
"You guys live in places like California, New York, and the South where there's a lot of short people."

Yes, my experience of the US is limited to the South and west to California. Texans seemed tall, but white male Southerners seemed mostly fairly short, not much taller than me (5'9"). The Mexicans immigrants who seemed to make up most of the population of California were mostly ca 5'4"-5'5" I'd say.

Marc B said...

"Is it just that "German" Americans married girls named Smith who were 1/8 Native American"

Probably. I attribute much of the high per capita of attractive Southern gals with some blend of Scotch-Irish and squaw DNA. Parker Posey, Sela Ward, and Ashely Judd are just a few examples of prominent Southern lookers that make a good case for this being a beneficial admixture.

Anonymous said...

"in soccer, tennis, boxing, track, and swimming, many of the modern athletes are huge and much bigger than players from 20 years ago. size does not even seem useful in soccer, but some of the players are really tall now."

You obviously don't know much about soccer if you think that size is not useful in soccer. Of two players with equal skill, the bigger player is going to dominate, all other things being equal. The game is faster and more physical than it used to be, and size plays a part in that.

rob said...

On the New Yorker article, I wonder if apples have stopped getting larger. What about oranges? If we compare the two, perhaps we will discover that planting apple trees in Florida would lead to bigger fruit. Because we can totally compare apples and oranges, Gladwell says so.

Seriously, Italy, Germany, Belgium...all the EU has socialized medicine. Why are Italians shorter than the Dutch? Is Italy starving, are they all sick?

Comparing the rate of change in height between populations seems iffy: European Americans might have hit their max earlier.

But really, height has a heritability of like .9 in the modern US white population. Tall men have more children than short men. If children have dads that are just an inch taller than the average of dads' generation, that generation will be 0.9 inches taller. There's a ton of room for selection in population height.

Tall men outearn short men and have higher SES on average. "Dysgenic" reproduction will drive height down.

Black women getting shorter: in normal (ie not malnourished or whatever) women, age of menarche and adult height are inversely correlated. When earlier puberty leads to earlier (or more) reproduction, that will drive down height.

Comparing Europeans and European Americans is not perfect: immigrants are not a random sample, selection varies (poverty, disease and war), white Americans probably have 2-4% Native American admixture. Maybe even higher in tradtional/Old stock/settler/ Americans. I'd bet the dopamine receptor allele that influences ADHD (DRD4?) is more common in white Americans than in Europeans.

I attribute much of the high per capita of attractive Southern gals with some blend of Scotch-Irish and squaw DNA

White and Native American works pretty well, at least Northern European and North American Indian. Spanish and Central American: not so much. To my eye, mixed race African/Native people are the least attractive people, not really healthy either, IIRC.

David said...

My anecdote:

Few white men under 30 are less than a half a foot taller than I am. And I was of average height most of my life (5'10").

Anonymous said...

“I was struck in Britain and Germany (Frankfurt and south) how much darker Europeans seemed to me than mainstream (British/German/Irish) whites in the US.”

I’ve lived in Britain and Germany for about 8 years total and I didn’t find that. Germany has a lot of variation. The bulk of the population in the S and C parts of the country look mostly “Alpine” – not particularly tall (but not short either), broad and heavy build, round, globular heads and faces, fairly broad features, brunet white complexions and hair color usually of various shades of brown. All types of eye colors though mixed seemed to predominate (i.e. hazel as opposed to pure blue or brown). In the NW (Niedersachsen, and Holland as well), the people are much more “Nordic” looking – tall, skinny, and long limbed, long narrow heads, faces and features, pinkish/ruddy complexions, overwhelmingly blue eyed. Most of the children are blond and most of the adults have light brown hair. Blondism tends toward “golden.” In the Former E Germany, the people have a much more “Baltic” look – squarish heads with prominent cheekbones. Complexion is pale, but not ruddy. Light eyes predominate, but usually gray or blue-gray as opposed to blue. Hair is usually blond in children and brown in adults and blondism tends towards “ashen” – i.e., absence of rufosity.

In Britain, the population varies a lot by region. In the W Country of England, Wales, and Cornwall the people are often quite swarthy with dark hair and eyes. In the E and NE, the people are pale and ruddy, overwhelmingly blue-eyed and have a high incidence of blond hair (very similar in pigmentation to Scandinavians and NW Germans) as well as red-headedness. The Irish tend towards pale milky complexions, blue eyes with dark hair. When they have fair hair, it is usually red or reddish. The Scots are similar to the Irish, but blonder in the Eastern part of the country. In the SW around London the people appear more mixed. Hair color is usually an non-descript brown and skin and eye color are very variable.

“The Japanese have been getting taller since their diet became more Westernized (i.e.: more carbs and dairy).”

Young adult Japanese males and females have been stagnant at about 172 and 159 cm, respectively, since the early 80s (birth cohort around 1970).

Anonymous said...

“I think there is just something odd about the facial morphology of some of those in the low countries (no offense, but strikingly primitive sometims).”

The Low Countries have what anthropologists used to classify as Dalo-Falids:

The Dalo-Falid is quite tall, and rather wide in most features, especially when compared to the more gracile Nordid. The neck is thick, the shoulders broad, and the general impression is of great strength and robusticity. There is a certain extent of sexual dimorphism, and whereas the men are typically very "masculine", the women develop corresponding features only to moderacy; they are often large-featured, however in a distinctively female way.

The Dalo-Falid head is meso- to dolichocephalic, and is characterized by a wedge-like shape. The face is broad and somewhat short, often giving the impression of a compressed Nordid, which undoubtedly reflects the partial contribution of Dalo-Falid or a similar Cro-Magnid strain to the historical formation of the Nordid types. The maxillary bones are strongly developed.

The forehead is short and rather steep, and a characteristic supraorbital bulge is often seen, especially in men. In combination with deep-set eyes, which are also common in Dalo-Falids, this feature tends to give the type a “primitive” aspect.

The nose is relatively short, yet thin (meso- to leptorrhine), and often protrusive. The profile is mostly straight, with a slight tendency towards concavity (rather than convexity). In women, Alpinid-like noses are not uncommon.

The lower jaw is massive and broad, and the gonial angles are clearly visible, even flaring. The Dalo-Falid deviates from the Brünn in this latter respect, and while it is usually broad-faced, it seldom approaches the facial flatness common among Irish Brünns. However, the Dalo-Falid type is strongly orthognathous, with a nearly vertical mouth region, an impression which is reinforced by the thinness of the lips.

Furrows and folds appear at a relatively early age (in men, firstly), particularly on the forehead and along the sides of the nose and mouth. The skin is a bright rosy color, approaching red, which is less common in Nordids. The pigmentation of the Dalo-Falid type is nearly as light as that of Nordids. The hair is typically blond or brown, with a tendency towards rufosity, and the eyes are gray or blue.

Anonymous said...

(birth cohort around 1970).

Oop! That should read 1960.

Anonymous said...

(birth cohort around 1970).

Correction: That should read early 1960s.

Anonymous said...

What's so great about being tall anyway? Beyond a certain point, it serves no useful purpose, and is little more than a sex selection marker. Think of the peacock's tail or the antlers of the Irish Deer.

So what if the Dutch are some of the tallest people in Europe? The Greeks and Turks, despite good nutrition, are still the shortest, and I don't hear them complain.

David said...

> The Greeks and Turks, despite good nutrition, are still the shortest, and I don't hear them complain. <

You mean you don't hear them complain in English.