Social Question

phoenyx's avatar

What if we had a tax based on height?

Asked by phoenyx (7385points) February 26th, 2010

I was just reading this paper by Greg Mankiw. In it he says:

The empirical leg is that a person’s height is strongly correlated with his or her income. For example, Anne Case and Christina Paxson (2008) write that “For both men and women…an additional inch of height [is] associated with a one to two percent increase in earnings.” This fact, together with the canonical approach to optimal taxation, suggests that a person’s tax liability should be a function of his height. That is, a tall person of a given income should pay more in taxes than a short person of the same income.
Case, Anne and Christina Paxson (2008). “Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes,” Journal of Political Economy, 116(3), pp. 499–532.

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39 Answers

whatthefluther's avatar

Great! I was 6’2”, but am now about 4’4” in my wheelchair. Far out… break!
See ya…..Gary/wtf

lilikoi's avatar

Wouldn’t that be discrimination?

I’m sure there are tons of exceptions to the rule. Sandra Day O’Conner for example is 5 feet tall and surely is much wealthier than a lot of people who are taller than her. Sally Field isn’t super tall either. Plus women are typically shorter than men so this rule would penalize women.

Now it’s sexist, too.

No chance in hell anyone would pass that legislation.

faye's avatar

You said an inch or two of height meant greater earning and the you say same income.

phoenyx's avatar

@lilikoi height is not a protected class.

Taller women make more money than shorter women doing the same job.

lilikoi's avatar

Yes, but sex is.

Taxation by income is a much more reliable way….obviously.

Why establish a de-bunkable correlation between height and wealth when everyone can just report income directly.

hug_of_war's avatar

Why don’t we tax on race too since blacks and hispanics tend to make less? /sarcasm

phoenyx's avatar

@lilikoi Part of their income is just from being taller, not from higher productivity or greater skill.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

NBA stars would contribute more to society.

ragingloli's avatar

The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined that Correlation =/= Causation.
If physical height caused higher income, then you might be able to make an argument in favour of taxing height, but as it is that idea is thoroughly ludicrous as well as discrimination based on physical properties no different from skin colour.
(and a rapper has a higher chance of making money if he is black, so you could just as well propose a black skin tax)

lilikoi's avatar

@phoenyx What? What I’m saying is that there are too many exceptions to this “rule” to make it viable. And it would be a failed attempt at reinventing the wheel since we already have a system that works (it just isn’t enforced).

lilikoi's avatar

Frankly, papers like this are the reason why people in the “hard” sciences have a hard time taking people in the “soft” sciences seriously. They’re probably called soft because of all the useless fluff.

mammal's avatar

We should place a tax on questions using an abnormal font too,
just for the hell of it.

Sarcasm's avatar

Sounds to me like Danny DeVito lucks out again.

DominicX's avatar

Sure. I’m 5’6”. This could benefit me. :)

phoenyx's avatar

@mammal I asked the question using the same font Fluther uses for all of its questions. I used the monospace font (probably the standard Courier in your browser) in the discussion area to indicate a quote because there isn’t a way to do a quote/blockquote. Your tax proposal would not apply to this question, but if it applied to Comic Sans I’d be all for it.

FutureMemory's avatar

I’m 6’4”

Form a line, ladies.

DarkScribe's avatar

I would have to dig holes in the bottom of my shoes.

jrpowell's avatar

@phoenyx :: Don’t listen to mammal.

DarkScribe's avatar

@mammal We should place a tax on questions using an abnormal font too, just for the hell of it.

It is your system that is displaying the font. You have complete control over it – as long as you know how to “fine tune” your browser. Should we tax novice browser owners?

FutureMemory's avatar

It’s different for me too.

mammal's avatar

@phoenyx i’d like to employ comic sans whenst commentating in a sarcastic, sardonic or satirical manner. Then a couple of people on this thread wouldn’t get all hung up on a throw away comment.

Berserker's avatar

We’ll probably get taxes based on how much oxygen we inhale before that happens.

BoBo1946's avatar

Would not vote for that…i’m a tall guy!

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Forget height.I think people should be penalized, I mean taxed for farting.

LostInParadise's avatar

This kind of argument was extended by the philosopher John Rawls, who said that one’s success is largely determined by chance. Some people are born with advantages in intelligence, appearance, family income, etc. Rawls used this line of argument to justify providing benefits to those in need.

aprilsimnel's avatar

[j/k] No. Eva Longoria doesn’t need to be cut any more breaks! [/jk]

janbb's avatar

I’d be in clover!

john65pennington's avatar

Lets switch this question around and ask “what if we had a tax based on our weight”. Uncle Sam would become rich overnight, after April 15th.

What happened to those New Years resolutions about you losing weight?

Sarcasm's avatar

@john65pennington I wouldn’t mind that idea so much. Weight is much more of a choice, relative to height at least. I think they ARE trying to add fat taxes though, aren’t they? Taxing sodas and such.

talljasperman's avatar

I am for taxes as long as I can say how they are spent… by the way I’m 6’ 5”

phoenyx's avatar

I don’t see see how this would be a disadvantage to women at all. In fact it would be the opposite. As I quoted in my description: “That is, a tall person of a given income should pay more in taxes than a short person of the same income.” Women are typically shorter than men, so they would typically pay less “height tax.” Also, I only quoted a small part of the paper for the purpose of starting a discussion. He isn’t advocating a tax based on height, just using it to illustrate some points. (The paper isn’t as “soft” as it might seem from this quote).

What do you propose the cause is for the higher income then? Are taller people more intelligent? More skilled (professional athletics and the like being the obvious exception)? More productive? Why is it that if you take two people of equal ability doing the same job, the taller person will make more?

So you’re asserting that if we took rappers and controlled for everything but skin color, the darker rappers would have a higher income than lighter rappers? If you took two rappers of equal ability, the darker rapper would have a higher income?

Protected class, as I mentioned before. However, if you took two people of equal skill, intelligence, and productivity and you found that, say, the white guy is making more than the hispanic guy and that it is because he’s white, why is it so wrong to tax part of that income that he isn’t earning through ability, but just because he is white?

If you could show that people who were heavier made more than their thinner counterparts who were equivalent in other aspects.


Some observations:
1. We seem to have this idea that people with greater skill/ability/intelligence deserve a higher income.

2. If people have more income, not because they are better, but because of some other factor it is considered unfair.

3. Taxes should be basically fair.

I’m curious why we’re opposed to extra tax on the “unfair” income.

(I’m not actually in favor of taxing taller people, but I’m not completely sure why I’m not, which is why I started this discussion.)

Dr_C's avatar

I chose my profession. I chose to study and work hard. I chose a path that led me to a position where I can earn an income above that of many of my friends and neighbors. I chose to apply myself and reach a specific goal. If someone else had done the exact same thing, and had the same ability to do the job that I do then by all means we should receive the same income and should be taxed accordingly.

I did not choose to be 6’8”. My height did not influence my career choice. My height does not affect my ability to do my job. My height does not affect the effort I put into my job every day. My height is not a factor in how I conduct myself in a professional setting and therefore is not related to my income. If people of lesser stature choose to latch on to that in order to explain their lesser income that’s their business, but it does not give anyone the right to demand more money from me for doing the same job.

P.S. Just because a guy wrote an article that claims taller people make more money doesn’t make it true.

Sarcasm's avatar

Au contraire, @Dr_C! You did choose to be tall! And furthermore, it is that tallness that made you wish to be a doctor!
Truth. You can’t deny it.

Dr_C's avatar

@Sarcasm i will kill your face shorty~

phoenyx's avatar

I’ve been looking into this further and, although there is a correlation, the causation isn’t as clear as I first thought. In fact, the cited paper claims “In this paper, we offer a simpler explanation: Taller people earn more on average, because they are smarter on average.”

Dr_C's avatar

@phoenyx I can get behind that theory, but I still refuse to pay higher taxes.

talljasperman's avatar

taller people have more expenses to pay…our bodies don’t fit in a normal bathtub, clothing or bed… and some of us need more food than others…we should get rebates from the tax man

DarkScribe's avatar

Taller people don’t live as long. Several of my shorter friends waved that report under my nose a few years ago.

Dr_C's avatar

I also spend more on clothing (finding “tall” and not “Big & tall” sizes is a bitch), shoes (I wear a size 15 shoe and on many occasions have been forced to have stores order special sizes for me) and vehicles. My main concern when buying a car is “Will I fit behind the wheel”. I think that in itself deserves a break… If I spend more I should be able to deduct more no?

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