It is widely believed that people from the upper class look down on individuals belonging to the middle and lower classes.
Now, a 30-year-research by leading economists, biologists, historians and demographers has confirmed that it is literally, as well as figuratively, true, reports the Independent.
AdvertisementThe 'Changing Body' concludes that there is a clear link between height and earnings.
Increases in both, over the past 300 years, are greater than over the three preceding millennia, demonstrating that the changes are too rapid to be evolutionary. And the secret lies in nutrition.
Some 200 years ago, differences in height between working-class and upper-class people were 'really substantial', said Sir Roderick Floud, a leading economic historian and one of the leaders of the team behind the book.
In the late 18th and early 19th century, a comparison between boys from the slums of London and boys at Sandhurst Royal Military Academy - the children of peers, clergymen, naval and army officers - showed that between 90 to 95 percent of working-class boys were shorter than upper-class children.
"Those upper-class children were well fed and rich, but still significantly shorter than boys today," said Floud.
"But working-class boys were so short that if you took them into the doctor's surgery today, you'd be whipped off to nearest hospital for child neglect," he added.
In the 1780s, the average height of a 14-year-old working-class child was 1.3m, while an upper class child was 'significantly taller' at 1.55m.
As health services, nutrition, sanitation and education became universal, upper class children continued to grow taller, but at a slower rate than working-class children.
The difference between the upper- and working-class adults has narrowed to less than 0.06m.
Regional variation also played its part.
Two centuries ago, the Scots were 2.3cm taller than those living in southern England, while Norwegians were among the shortest nations in Europe.
Today the Scottish, averaging 1.73m for an adult male, are shorter than those living in south-east England at 1.75m, while the Norwegians are the second tallest nation in Europe, surpassed only by the Dutch.
"Improvements in diet and sanitation in the South-east have outstripped improvements in Scotland, reflecting the broad pattern of economic and social change over the last 200 years," said co-author Prof Bernard Harris.
"The average height of countries across Europe, or regions within a country, shows how well they are doing. If you rank countries by height, it's close to ranking them by gross domestic product," said Floud.
The link between height and earnings is borne out through the research, as taller people tend to be more successful, while economic success in turn breeds taller people.
The book will be published next month.
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