I've seen a lot of questions on here by both guys and girls wondering if they're too tall or too short for the opposite gender, so I thought I'd do a little statistical analysis to see if there was a measurable idealized height for both genders. A few weeks ago I posted this question to which a truck load of you responded (thank you!) and I spent the last couple weeks distilling and analyzing the data to see if I could answer this question.
Basically I tested two things: 1) Does age affect idealized height? And 2) Does height affect idealized height? The second question is the more intriguing one. You can view idealized height on a sliding scale with two end-members: a constant height and a constant height difference (i.e. idealized height scales with the other person's height). In other words using a linear relationship, y=mx+b, m varies between 0 (constant height, b) and 1 (constant difference, b). In theory m could be greater than 1, but it's unlikely in this scenario.
Before I dive into the results, I should probably bore you all with how I analyzed it. I'll keep this really brief. To test the first question, I grouped the data into four age groups and ran an analysis of variance test on each gender. I did this for each gender's height, idealized height, and height difference. To test the second question, I averaged the data by increments of 1" to get rid of some of the noise and ran a linear regression between idealized height and height for both genders. Trendlines, standard errors of the estimate, coefficients of determination, and significance levels are all reported.
Does age affect idealized height?
Table 1 - Averages plus/minus 1 standard deviation for height, idealized height, and height difference, for each gender segregated by age.
- The average reported female height is 5'5" with no differences across any of the age groups
- The average idealized male height is 5'11" with no differences across the age groups
- The average height difference is 7" with no differences across the age groups
- The average reported male height is 5'10" with the age group "0-17" being significantly shorter than the other groups
- The average idealized female height is 5'5" with no differences across the age groups
- The average height difference is 5" with no differences across the age groups
There doesn't appear to be age dependency on height preferences by either gender. Guys of any age prefer girls who are around 5'5" (5'2"-5'8") while girls of any age prefer guys around 5'11" (5'8"-6'2"). What's interesting is that the average girl prefers a guy of average height and vice versa.
Does height affect idealized height?
Figure 1 - Raw data of relationships between male and female idealized heights versus reported height (A & B). Filtered versions of A & B (C & D). Error bars in A and B are ranges reported by users. Error bars in C & D are 1 standard deviation. Lines of equal height are labelled in red and the idealized averages +/- 1 SD from Table 1 are shaded in grey.
Firstly, let's state the obvious: Girls prefer guys who are taller than them and guys prefer girls who are shorter than them. That is abundantly clear from the figures where only a few exceptions seem to exist.
The following will only focus on the filtered graphs:
- The range of 5’8” to 6’2” describes female height preferences fairly well.
- For girls, there is a moderate, though, statistically significant positive trend between female height and idealized male height, meaning that idealized male height roughly scales with the girl’s height. This is particularly true for girls 5’4” and over, who generally prefer guys at least 5’11”, increasing with the girl’s height. Girls 5’3” and below generally prefer a guy under 5’11".
- The slope value of the regression is 0.366, which means that the idealized height increases by 0.37” for every inch of female height and also means that the height disparity decreases by 0.63” as the woman gets taller, varying from ~10” for girls of 5’, to 5” of girls of 5’9”, and 1” for girls of 6’.
- The range of 5’2” to 5’8” describes male height preferences fairly well.
- For guys, there is a weak and statistically insignificant positive trend between male height and idealized female height, meaning that idealized female height does not scale with the guy’s height and can be viewed as an approximate constant of about 5’5” +/- 3”. This applies primarily to guys above 5’4”, while those below tend to like girls below 5’.
- For every inch male height increases, the height gap between male and female height increases by between 0.79" and 1" depending on whether you choose to use the regression coefficient or give it a value of 0, since the coefficient is insignificant.
Discussion & Conclusions - How much does height actually matter?
The most relevant results can be summarized as follows:
- Male height preferences vary between 5'2" and 5'8" and are largely invariant with both age and height.
- Female height preferences vary between 5'8" and 6'2" and are invariant with age but not height where taller girls prefer average to above-average guys and shorter girls prefer average to slightly below-average guys.
- On average, each gender prefers the other gender's average height.
Whether these results are surprising depends on your pre-conceived notions of each gender's height preferences. It should be noted that there exists considerable scatter within the data, so any height preferences are just generalizations and not immutable fact applicable to every person of a given height. So don't take the results too personally if you fall out of the idealized range.
A study is never fully complete until you compare your results to other people's findings. So comparing these results to the published studies of Fink et al. (2007), Salska et al. (2008), and Swami et al. (2008) there is strong congruence in terms of average height, average idealized height, and how idealized height varies with reported height. For instance, both Salska et al. (2008) and Swami et al. (2008) show that the idealized male height lies between 5'10" and 6', while the idealized female height lies between 5'4" and 5'6". All three studies report that females prefer the guy to be about 8-10% taller on average while guys prefer to be 5-9% taller. This corresponds to averages of 11% and 8% for females and males respectively from the data here. Lastly, both Fink et al. (2007) and Salska et al. (2008) were able to capture the relationship between reported height and height difference whereby the tallest women and shortest men prefer partners of similar height, and the shortest women and tallest men prefer height differences of at least 7" to 10". All in all, the findings from this completely unsophisticated study support previously published results.
If you have access to them, I definitely encourage you to take a peek at those articles. They go into more depth on things that I don't have the time nor knowledge to talk about. The Fink et al. and Salska et al. studies are free if you type the titles into Google Scholar and click on the researchgate pdf link.
So let's wrap this up with a nice, tidy bow. To answer the question of whether height actually matters, I'd say not as much as we believe. It seems like the vast majority of women are content with heights between 5'8" to 6'2" while guys are content with heights between 5'2" and 5'8". And considering some of those crazy ranges in Figures 1A and 1B, we could probably extend these height brackets further. I'll emphasize again that there exists considerable scatter within the data, so if the results have discouraged you, fret not. Many users reported that height isn't important to them and gave some pretty broad ranges, so don’t go tying your sense of self-worth to the trends. Honestly, I think we let our insecurities get the better of us and make mountains out of moles. But height preference is a messy thing to nail down because there's so much variability, and there's so much variability because we honestly don't care too much. As long as she's shorter than him and he's taller than her, everything else is just details.
If there's anything you noticed from the graphs that I didn't cover that you found interesting, feel free to post a comment. This isn't really my day job so I didn't pick through the graphs with a fine-tooth comb and really consider all the implications of the results. There are more things to be said but I've spent 3 days writing/editing this and need to get on with my life!
Hope you enjoyed reading!!