Skip to main content Accesibility Help
×
×
Home

Height, Income and Voting

  • Raj Arunachalam and Sara Watson
Abstract

The claim that income drives political preferences is at the core of political economy theory, yet empirical estimates of income’s effect on political behavior range widely. Drawing on traditions in economic history and anthropology, we propose using height as a proxy for economic well-being. Using data from the British Household Panel Study, this article finds that taller individuals are more likely to support the Conservative Party, support conservative policies and vote Conservative; a one-inch increase in height increases support for Conservatives by 0.6 per cent. As an extension, the study employs height as an instrumental variable for income, and finds that each additional thousand pounds of annual income translates into a 2–3 percentage point increase in the probability of supporting the Conservatives, and that income drives political beliefs and voting in the same direction.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Height, Income and Voting
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Height, Income and Voting
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Height, Income and Voting
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All
*

Department of Economics, University of Michigan and Bates White, LLC (email: arunacha@umich.edu); Department of Political Science, The Ohio State University (email: watson.584@osu.edu). We thank Larry Bartels, David Lam, Philipp Rehm, Dean Yang, the Editor and three anonymous referees for helpful comments. The data used in this article are available to eligible researchers through application to the UK Data Archive. Data replication sets are available at http://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/BJPolS and online appendices are available at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1017/S0007123416000211.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Alesina, Alberto, and La Ferrara, Eliana. 2005. Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities. Journal of Public Economics 89:897931.
Alesina, Alberto, and Giuliano, Paola. 2011. Preferences for Redistribution. In Handbook of Social Economics, Vol. 1A edited by Jess Benhabib, Matthew O. Jackson and Alberto Bisin, 93131. The Netherlands: North-Holland.
Ansolabehere, Stephen, Rodden, Jonathan, and Snyder, James M.. 2006. Purple America. Journal of Economic Perspectives 20 (2):97118.
Arunachalam, Raj, and Watson, Sara. 2016. Divorce and the Political Gender Gap. Working Paper, The Ohio State University.
Bara, Judith. 2006. The 2005 Manifestos: A Sense of Déjà Vu? Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 16 (3):265281.
Bara, Judith, and Budge, Ian. 2001. Party Policy and Ideology: Still New Labour? Parliamentary Affairs 54 (4):590606.
Bartels, Larry. 2006. What’s the Matter with What’s the Matter With Kansas? Quarterly Journal of Political Science 1 (2):201226.
Benoit, Kenneth, and Laver, Michael. 2006. Party Policy in Modern Democracies. New York: Routledge.
Bhatti, Yosef, and Erikson, Robert S.. 2011. How Poorly are the Poor Represented in the US Senate? In Who Gets Represented?, edited by Peter K. Enns and Christopher Wleizen, 223246. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Bratton, Michael. 2006. Poor People and Democratic Citizenship in Africa. Afrobarometer Working Paper No. 56.
Brooks, Clem, and Brady, David. 1999. Income, Economic Voting, and Long-Term Political Change in the U.S., 1952–1996. Social Forces 77 (4):13391374.
Brunner, Eric, Ross, Stephen L., and Washington, Ebonya. 2013. Does Less Income Mean Less Representation? American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 5 (2):5376.
Brynin, Malcolm, and Sanders, David. 1997. Party Identification, Political Preferences and Material Conditions Evidence from the British Household Panel Survey. Party Politics 3 (1):5377.
Caplan, Bryan, and Miller, Stephen C.. 2010. Intelligence Makes People Think Like Economists: Evidence from the General Social Survey. Intelligence 38 (6):636647.
Carl, Noah. 2015. Cognitive Ability and Political Beliefs in the United States. Personality and Individual Differences 83:245248.
Case, Anne, and Paxson, Christina. 2008. Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes. Journal of Political Economy 116 (3):499532.
Case, Anne, Paxson, Christina, and Islam, Mahnaz. 2009. Making Sense of the Labor Market Height Premium: Evidence from the British Household Panel Survey. Economics Letters 102:174176.
Cinnirella, Francesco, and Winter, Joachim. 2009. Size Matters! Body Height and Labor Market Discrimination: A Cross-European Analysis. CESifo Working Paper No. 2733.
Conover, Michael D., Goncalves, Bruno, Ratkiewicz, Jacob, Flammini, Alessandro, and Menczer, Filippo. 2011. Predicting the Political Alignment of Twitter Users. Proceedings of the IEEE 3rd International Conference on Social Computing 192–199.
Deary, Ian J., Batty, G. David, and Gale, Catharine R.. 2008. Childhood Intelligence Predicts Voter Turnout, Voting Preferences, and Political Involvement in Adulthood: The 1970 British Cohort Study. Intelligence 36 (6):548555.
Deary, Ian J., Strand, Steve, Smith, Pauline, and Fernandes, Cres. 2007. Intelligence and Educational Achievement. Intelligence 35 (1):1321.
De La, O, Ana, L., and Rodden, Jonathan A.. 2008. Does Religion Distract the Poor?: Income and Issue Voting Around the World. Comparative Political Studies 41 (4/5):437476.
DiGrazia, Joseph, McKelvey, Karissa, Bollen, Johan, and Rojas, Fabio. 2013. More Tweets, More Votes: Social Media as a Quantitative Indicator of Political Behavior. PLOS ONE 8 (11).
Dixit, Avinash, and Londregan, John. 1996. The Determinants of Success of Special Interests in Redistributive Politics. Journal of Politics 58 (4):11321155.
Donnelly, Michael J., and Pop-Eleches, Grigore. 2012. The Questionable Validity of Income Measures in the World Values Survey. Working Paper. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.
Downs, Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper.
Garnett, Mark, and Lynch, Philip. 2002. Bandwagon Blues: The Tory Fightback Fails. Political Quarterly 73 (1):2937.
Gelman, Andrew, Shor, Boris, Bafumi, Joseph, and Park, David. 2007. Rich State, Poor State, Red State, Blue State: What’s the Matter with Connecticut? Quarterly Journal of Political Science 2 (4):345367.
Gelman, Andrew, Lee, Daniel, and Ghitza, Yair. 2010. Public Opinion on Health Care Reform. The Forum 8 (1):114.
Gelman, Andrew, Park, David, Shor, Boris, Bafumi, Joseph, and Cortina, Jeronimo. 2008. Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Gilens, Martin. 2009. Preference Gaps and Inequality in Representation. PS: Political Science and Politics 42 (2):335341.
Gingrich, Jane. 2014. Visibility, Values and Voters. Journal of Politics 76 (2):565580.
Glaeser, Edward L., and Ward, Bryce A.. 2006. Myths and Realities of American Political Geography. Journal of Economic Perspectives 20 (2):119144.
Glaeser, Edward L., Ponzetto, Giacomo A. M., and Shapiro, Jesse M.. 2005. Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values. Quarterly Journal of Economics 120 (4):12831330.
Green, Jane. 2010. Strategic Recovery? The Conservatives Under David Cameron. Parliamentary Affairs 63 (4):667688.
Huber, John D., and Stanig, Piero. 2006. Voting Polarization on Redistribution Across Democracies. Working Paper, Department of Political Science, Columbia University.
Hübler, Olaf. 2009. The Nonlinear Link Between Height and Wages: An Empirical Investigation. Economics & Human Biology 7 (2):191199.
Kelly, Richard. 2001. Conservatism Under Hague: The Fatal Dilemma. Political Quarterly 72 (2):197203.
Korpi, Walter. 1983. The Democratic Class Struggle. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Lind, Jo Thori. 2007. Does Permanent Income Determine the Vote? B. E. Journal of Macroeconomics 7 (1):127.
Lind, Jo Thori. 2010. Do the Rich Vote Conservative Because They Are Rich? Review of Economics and Institutions 1 (2):135.
Lindbeck, Assar, and Weibull, Jorgen. 1987. Balanced-Budget Redistribution as the Outcome of Political Competition. Public Choice 52:273297.
Loh, Eng Seng. 1993. The Economic Effect of Physical Appearance. Social Science Quarterly 74:420438.
Mackintosh, Nicholas John. 1998. IQ and Human Intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Magnusson, Patrik K. E., Rasmussen, Finn, and Gyllensten, Ulf B.. 2006. Height at Age 18 Years is a Strong Predictor of Attained Education Later in Life: Cohort Study of Over 950000 Swedish Men. International Journal of Epidemiology 35:658663.
Mankiw, N. Gregory, and Weinzierl, Matthew. 2010. The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 2 (1):155176.
Manza, Jeff, and Brooks, Clem. 1999. Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignments and US Party Coalitions. New York: Oxford University Press.
McCarty, Nolan, Poole, Keith T., and Rosenthal, Howard. 2003. Political Polarization and Income Inequality. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.
Meltzer, Allan H., and Richard, Scott F.. 1981. A Rational Theory Size of Government. Journal of Political Economy 89 (5):914927.
Mikusheva, Anna, and Poi, Brian. 2006. Tests and Confidence Sets With Correct Size When Instruments Are Potentially Weak. Stata Journal 6 (3):335347.
Mill, John Stuart. 1861/1946. Considerations on Representative Government. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Mollerstrom, Johanna, and Seim, David. 2010. Cognitive Ability and the Demand for Redistribution. PLOS ONE 9 (10):17.
Nannestad, Peter, and Paldam, Martin. 1997. From the Pocketbook of the Welfare Man: A Pooled Cross-Section Study of Economic Voting in Denmark, 1986–1992. British Journal of Political Science 27 (1):119136.
Nettle, Daniel. 2002. Height and Reproductive Success in a Cohort of British Men. Human Nature 13:473491.
Norris, Pippa. 2004. Electoral Engineering: Voting Rules and Political Behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Norton, Michael I., and Ariely, Dan. 2011. Building a Better America – One Wealth Quintile at a Time. Perspectives on Psychological Science 6:912.
Oskarsson, Sven, Cesarini, David, Dawes, Christopher T., Fowler, James H., Johannesson, Magnus, Magnusson, Patrik K. E., and Teorell, Jan. 2015. Linking Genes and Political Orientations: Testing the Cognitive Ability as Mediator Hypothesis. Political Psychology 36 (6):649665.
Oswald, Andrew J., and Powdthavee, Nattavudh. 2010. Daughters and Left-Wing Voting. Review of Economics and Statistics 92 (2):213227.
Page, Benjamin I., and Hennessy, Cari Lynn. 2010. What Affluent Americans Want From Politics. Working Paper, Department of Politics, Northwestern University.
Persico, Nicola, Postlewaite, Andrew, and Silverman, Dan. 2004. The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height. Journal of Political Economy 112 (5):10191053.
Price, Michael, Brown, Stuart, Dukes, Amber, and Kang, Jinsheng. 2015. Bodily Attractiveness and Egalitarianism are Negatively Related in Males. Evolutionary Psychology 13 (1):140166.
Rehm, Philipp. 2011. Risk Inequality and the Polarized American Electorate. British Journal of Political Science 41:363387.
Rhodes, Jesse H., and Schaffner, Brian F.. 2013. Economic Inequality and Representation in the US House: A New Approach Using Population-Level Data. Working Paper, Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Roberts, Kevin W. S. 1977. Voting Over Income Tax Schedules. Journal of Public Economics 8 (3):329340.
Roche, Alex F. 1992. Growth, Maturation, and Body Composition: The Fels Longitudinal Study, 1929–1991. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Romer, Thomas. 1975. Individual Welfare, Majority Voting, and the Properties of a Linear Income Tax. Journal of Public Economics 4 (2):163185.
Sanders, David, and Brynin, Malcolm. 1999. The Dynamics of Party Preference Change in Britain, 1991–1996. Political Studies 47:219239.
Soroka, Stuart, and Wlezein, Christpher. 2008. On the Limits to Inequality in Representation. PS: Political Science & Politics 41 (April):319327.
Steckel, Richard H. 1983. Height and Per Capita Income. Historical Methods 16 (1):17.
Steckel, Richard H. 1995. Stature and the Standard of Living. Journal of Economic Literature 33 (4):19031940.
Steckel, Richard H. 2008. Biological Measures of the Standard of Living. Journal of Economic Perspectives 22 (1):129152.
Stonecash, Jeffrey M. 2006. The Income Gap. PS: Political Science and Politics 39 (3):461465.
Strauss, John, and Thomas, Duncan. 1998. Health, Nutrition and Economic Development. Journal of Economic Literature 36 (2):766817.
Stubager, Rune. 2009. Education-Based Group Identity and Consciousness in the Authoritarian-Libertarian Value Conflict. European Journal of Political Research 48 (2):204233.
University of Essex. Institute for Social and Economic Research. 2010. British Household Panel Survey: Waves 1-18, 1991–2009. UK Data Service. SN 5151.
University of Essex. Institute for Social and Economic Research. 2015. Understanding Society: United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Survey: Waves 1-4, 2009–2013. UK Data Service. SN 6614.
Ura, Joseph Daniel, and Ellis, Christopher R.. 2008. Income, Preferences and the Dynamics of Policy Responsiveness. PS: Political Science & Politics 41 (4):785794.
van der Waal, Jeroen, Achterberg, Peter, and Houtman, Dick. 2007. Class is Not Dead – It Has Been Buried Alive: Class Voting and Cultural Voting in Postwar Western Societies (1956–1990). Politics & Society 35 (3):403426.
Wannamethee, S. Goya, Shaper, A. Gerald, Lennon, Lucy, and Whincup, Peter H.. 2006. Height Loss in Older Men: Associations With Total Mortality and Incidence of Cardiovascular Disease. Archives of Internal Medicine 166 (22):25462552.
Weakliem, David L. 2002. The Effects of Education on Political Opinions: An International Study. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 13 (2):141157.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
UNKNOWN
Supplementary materials

Arunachalam and Watson Dataset
Dataset

 Unknown
PDF
Supplementary materials

Arunachalam and Watson supplementary material
Appendix

 PDF (723 KB)
723 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed