Short men and overweight women are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to education, career opportunities, and earning potential, a new study shows. After examining the DNA of about 120,000 adults, researchers at Exeter University in England found that men who are genetically predisposed to be short generally have less schooling and lower wages than those with tall genes. For every additional 2½ inches in height resulting purely from genetics (rather than diet or economic status), a man’s annual income increases by nearly $2,300.
A similar analysis of body mass index (BMI)—a measure of body fat based on height and weight—reveals that heavier women face even greater obstacles than short men. When a woman has a genetically predicted weight 28 pounds more than another woman of the same height, she is on average paid $4,300 a year less. “This is the strongest evidence by far that there is a causal link from being a bit overweight as a woman, being a bit shorter as a man, to doing worse in life,” study author Timothy Frayling tells The Guardian.
“Many shorter men and overweight women are very successful, but science must now ask why we are seeing this pattern.” He speculates that in a culture obsessed with body image, shorter men and heavier women suffer from low self-esteem and depression, and may face outright discrimination.