Female height and union formation in the developing World

Christiaan Monden, Tilburg University
Jeroen Smits, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen

We study the role of female height in union formation among 350,000 women aged 16-49 living in 560 districts within 52 developing countries. Theories on union formation are usually tested on data for Western societies. The literature suggests that being taller increases success at the marriage market for men but not for women. We challenge the idea that the role of female height is universal. Theoretical arguments as well as empirical evidence suggest that the role of female height is conditioned by the level of development of societies. Female height is an important signal of health and reproductive potential in less developed societies. We develop a series of hypotheses on the role of female height on the likelihood to marry and to marry a partner with higher socio-economic status. These hypotheses are tested on a unique dataset with comparable measurements of societies that strongly vary in level of development.

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Presented in Poster Session 1