Americans are now shorter — especially in these professions

Will short kings soon become a population majority?

The average heights for Americans have dwindled over generations — and there’s even a divide among professions.

That’s according to an analysis from the Washington Post, which references multiple reports from various organizations.

Public officials were among the tallest, with an average height of 5 feet, 10.6 inches for men and 5 feet, 4.9 inches for women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey.

Athletes, entertainers and managers also ranked towards the top of the list for both genders.

Meanwhile, more blue-collar occupations — such as cleaners, farmhands, machine operators and individuals working in food service — were among the shortest.

The variance in height, past studies have suggested, could be blamed on bias; people are more likely to hire taller candidates for leadership roles, such as public officials, because it is considered an indicator of health and authority.

And, as for the shortest men being farm workers and the shortest women holding cleaning jobs, those occupations reportedly hire the largest share of immigrants, who tend to be shorter, according to the Washington Post.

National heights have changed through the years, and according to CDC data, the great American shrinkage has occurred over more than two decades — albeit by quarters of an inch.

Doctor measuring woman
Height averages varied among Americans by occupation — public officials were among the tallest professionals for both men and women. Getty Images

But when comparing the heights of modern-day people in 200 countries to statures from more than 30 years prior, data from NCD Risk Factor Collaboration showed that Americans were slowly becoming shorter overall.

In 1985, 19-year-old American men were 36th tallest in the world, with women at 38th, and by 2019, they had fallen to 47th and 58th respectively.

Genetics, nutrition and access to healthcare play a role in height, according to John Komlos, an economics professor at the University of Munich.

Statures for white Americans began to dwindle around 1980 — sorry, Millennials — coinciding with a rise in childhood obesity.

Excess fat tissue amps up estrogen levels, which, in turn, “lead to more mature bones” and earlier-fusing growth plates, explained author and pediatric endocrinologist Louise Greenspan, of Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center.

In other words, the sooner kids stop growing, the shorter they could potentially be as adults.

Woman measuring herself and looking glum
The average height of American men and women aged 19 fell in the ranks of 200 countries over the course of more than three decades. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Nutrition and adequate healthcare also impact growth and height, Greenspan continued, and around the same time shrinking seemingly began in America, school lunches became more processed and the Reagan Administration began, heralding an uptick in healthcare costs. In years prior, access to food assistance during crucial years of growth for fetuses and children decreased stunting, according to the Washington Post.

“The US fell behind European countries because Europe adopted a welfare state approach, which meant cheap medicine for the individual,” Komlos explained, so “even poor people can afford to take their children to the doctor when they need to.”

Around the same time, he continued, inequality was on the rise. Those who could afford to attend universities and earn college degrees were more likely to afford adequate nutrition and care needed to grow. Those experiencing poverty, however, could lose height as a result, Komlos said.