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Height, Income and Voting

  • Raj Arunachalam and Sara Watson

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.

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Department of Economics, University of Michigan and Bates White, LLC (email:; Department of Political Science, The Ohio State University (email: 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 and online appendices are available at

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