Is Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis a victim of height discrimination?
That might be the real question worth asking in light of the current social media-fueled debate over whether DeSantis is boosting his height by wearing boots with heel lifts. The issue has been dubbed “bootgate,” which was trending on X.com (formerly known as Twitter) on Halloween, and has been the subject of much speculation online.
But underlying the guesses and gossip is the very real matter of how one’s height affects their ability to get hired, or the salary that they can earn.
It’s an issue that has been studied in-depth. A 2020 report in the journal PLOS One looked at data from thousands of Chinese adults, and found that “one additional [centimeter] in height is associated with a 1.30% increase in annual salary income.” Or as the Salon website noted, that means “a 5’6″ person making $50,000 every year would earn an additional $2,000 for each extra inch of height.”
Other studies have shown that being taller increases the chances for promotion at work, or positively influences perceptions of leadership capabilities.
In other words, short individuals are often penalized for something beyond their control. But the issue of “heightism,” as some call this form of bias, is a complex one, because people may not even realize they’re discriminating against these individuals.
“Heightism is an implicit bias, one we may subconsciously harbor or, indeed, internalize, without realizing it,” wrote Aysha Imtiaz in a story for the BBC website.
Inas R. Kelly, an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, has studied the issue in-depth. She told MarketWatch that heightism “is often ignored as a form of discrimination and yet people are aware of it.”
Kelly’s own research showed that taller women saw a boost in salary equating to $891 to $2,243. For taller men, the difference was even bigger, with salary increases of $1,874 to $2,306.
Of course, DeSantis is likely not hurting — at least financially: He already has a job as Florida governor, after all, and he previously represented the state as a U.S. congressman. But now he’s vying for president — and history suggests that taller candidates are favored in the race to be leader of the free world.
Indeed, one study found that the taller presidential contender won 58% of the time.
Not that Ron DeSantis might even be considered short. A Politico report said he stands at 5 feet 11 inches tall, based on information from Yale, his alma mater. If correct, that actually means he’s already couple of inches taller than the average U.S. male, who measures 5 feet 9 inches.
Still, even if the five-foot-eleven figure is accurate, DeSantis isn’t likely as tall as former President Donald Trump, who leads in the polls among his fellow Republican 2024 contenders by a wide margin. Trump has reported his height as being 6 feet 3 inches tall, although there have been questions as to whether Trump’s statements about his measurements are true.
MarketWatch reached out to DeSantis for comment about the heel-lift question via his gubernatorial office. A press representative responded by saying, “What does this question have to do with official state policy? Stop wasting our time [on] nonsense.”