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Am J Hum Biol. 2012 Jul-Aug;24(4):486-94. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.22252. Epub 2012 Mar 12.

The effect of female height on reproductive success is negative in Western populations, but more variable in non-western populations.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.



In this article we examine the association between female height and reproductive success in a US sample and present a review of previous studies on this association. We also outline possible biological explanations for our findings.


We used data from a long-term study of 5,326 female Wisconsin high school graduates to examine the association between female height and reproductive success. Twenty-one samples on this association were covered by our literature review.


Shorter women had more children surviving to age 18 than taller women, despite increased child mortality in shorter women. Taller women had a higher age at first birth and age at first marriage and reached a higher social status, but the negative effect of height on reproductive success persisted after controlling for these variables. However, while these effects were quite consistent in Western populations, they were not consistently present in non-Western populations. Our review also indicated that child mortality was almost universally higher among shorter women.


We conclude that shorter women have a higher number of live births but that final reproductive success depends on the positive effect of height on child survival.

Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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