Falling Short – the Discrimination of Height Discrimination

64 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2018

See all articles by Omer Kimhi

Omer Kimhi

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 22, 2018


Socio-psychological research solidly shows that people hold implicit biases against short individuals. We associate positive qualities to those with above average height, and we belittle those born a few inches short. These implicit biases, in turn, lead to outright discrimination. Experiments prove that employers prefer not to hire or promote short employees, and that they do not adequately compensate them. According to various studies, controlling for other variables, every inch of height is worth hundreds of dollars in annual income, which is no less severe than the wage gap associated with gender or racial discrimination.

Given the proportions of height discrimination revealed in the article, I examine why it is not legally addressed. How come the federal system and most states don't view height discrimination as illegal and why such discriminatory practices are ignored even by their victims? Using psychological literature, I argue that the answer lies in the "naming" of this phenomenon. We fail to recognize height discrimination, because it doesn't fit our mental template of discrimination. The characteristics we usually associate to discrimination – intentional behavior, clear harm, specific perpetrator/victim and specific domain – do not exist in height discrimination, and so we fail to categorize it as such. The article explains why, despite the "naming" difficulties, the legal system should not ignore the wide spread heightism phenomenon. Based on the psychological literature, it suggests ways to deal with it, focusing on the provision of information and on consciousness raising.

Suggested Citation

Kimhi, Omer, Falling Short – the Discrimination of Height Discrimination (April 22, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3166828 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3166828

Omer Kimhi (Contact Author)

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa, 31905

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