A genetics-based study by the University of Exeter in the UK recently demonstrated that shorter height in men, and a higher body mass index (BMI) in women, led to reduced opportunities in income.

In the study, researchers analyzed genetic variants from 120,000 participants between the ages of 40 and 70, who possessed genetic data in the UK Biobank. Scientists determined whether or not genetic variants, coupled with real data of participants' height and weight, actually led to lower chances in life, based on information the participants provided about their lives.

The results demonstrated that a man who was approximately 3 inches shorter than someone else--even if due only to his genetics--would make on average $1,900 less a year than his taller competition, even if they were equally matched in all other aspects. Along the same lines, a woman who is 14 pounds heavier than her female counterpart--again, for no reason other than her genetics--would earn on average $1,900 less a year than the lighter female of comparable height.

The data, while unfortunately not surprising, is incriminating of our society's superficial nature. People naturally make assumptions based on appearance, whether they're conscious of it or not. What's interesting in this particular study, however, is the comparison between genetics and phenotype, one's physical appearance. If a physical characteristic, such as height or weight, is genetic in origin and not a personal choice, the person will still be penalized by others for their perceived shortcoming.

In explaining the findings, Jessica Tyrrell from University of Exeter said, "Because we used genetics and 120,000 people, this is the strongest evidence to date that there's something about being shorter as a man and having a higher BMI as a woman that leads to being less well-off financially."

Realistically, it would make more sense to account for the fact that some people have varying genetic characteristics and to execute that understanding in determining career and professional opportunities, but it unfortunately appears as if we're not yet able to do so. Through this study, it's clear that height and weight alone were enough to cause discrimination in the workplace--at least in regards to income.

Published on: Oct 6, 2016
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