Introduction
It is common knowledge that women more often prefer a taller man to a shorter man. Many short men have found it difficult to form meaningful relationships because most women, even short women, would not consider dating them. We were interested to learn how strong a factor a man's height is for women who are dating. There have been very few studies conducted on the subject (All men are not created equal, What Do Women Want?). These studies concluded that height is important but did not quantify how important a man's height is to the woman looking for a date or a mate. Since conducting a study with dozens or hundreds of women was beyond our resources, we decided to look at information that had already been collected, but for another purpose.

Approach
Online dating services provide an excellent opportunity to draw conclusions about the importance of a man's height to the dating woman. Between August and October 2000, we analyzed almost 200,000 women's entries, world wide, from the Netscape/AOL Personals site. This site was chosen because it contained a sample size large enough to reduce statistical errors. Also, it was relatively easy to access each woman's height and their preference for a man's height. Additional information explaining how the data collection was achieved is available.

For each woman's entry, we collected 18 attributes and preferences. However, for the initial analysis, only five attributes (height, age, location, race and body style) and two preferences (man's minimum preferred height and maximum preferred height) were used. Correlation of other attributes will be provided in the future.

Instructions
The Personals Analyzer is now being loaded in another window. It starts with a graphical representation of 177,427 women's entries in the United States. Each bar shows a man's height from 4' 10" to 6' 8". The bars show the percent of women who prefer a man of this height. For example, in the United States, 11% of women would prefer a man who is 5' 4" tall. 89% would not. Here we define prefer as simply being included within the minimum and maximum heights that each woman specified.

Once the program has finished loading, you will be able to change the woman's attributes to what ever search criteria is of interest. The program will show Accessing Server. Please Wait........ while it is retrieving the appropriate data set from the server, and Done when finished. You will not be able to use the program while it shows Accessing Server. Please Wait.........

Choose any combination from the following drop down menus:

AttributeDefault
on Start
Explanation
CountryUnited StatesSelect the country that you want to analyze. The next three choices on this drop down menu are special:
  • World: Summarize the results for all countries combined.

  • Non-US: Summarize the results for all countries outside of the United States.

  • Other Countries: The Netscape/AOL Personals site contains almost 3,000 records in an other category. We don't know why a woman might be placed in other instead of a named country since so many countries are available when the woman creates her entry. We suspect that the site previously asked for United States or Other and later added each country.
StateAll StatesChoices on this drop down menu are only available when the selected country is "United States". Otherwise the choice list is blank.
HeightAll HeightsSpecify women of a particular height.
AgeAll AgesYou can choose from nine different age ranges.
RaceAll RacesWomen can self-identify their race from the following choices:
  • Prefer not to say
  • Caucasian/White (but not Hispanic)
  • African-American/Black
  • Asian
  • Hispanic
  • Other
  • Multiracial

Use this drop down menu to determine how preferences differ among women of different races.

Body TypeAll Body TypesWomen can self-identify their body type from the following choices. The site does not explain very well what each label means so it is left to the submitter and the reader to interpret the definition for themselves.
  • Prefer not to say
  • Average
  • Petite
  • Athletic
  • Slim/Slender
  • Large
  • Few Extra Pounds

Analysis
It is not surprising that taller men are preferred more often than shorter men. While the medium height (see Height Analyzer) for men in the United States is 5' 8½", the most preferred height for a man is 6' 0". This is true for almost any combination of woman's attributes. We did find some interesting differentiation. For a short man (5' 4" and shorter) living in the United States, the best states to live in are Idaho, Maine, Vermont, and Wyoming. A short man has a greater chance of being included in a woman's preferences. This is probably because these states have relatively low populations. Women have fewer choices and so are more likely to compromise and include a shorter man in their preferences. In contrast, California, New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Nevada and Arizona are the worst states for a short man. In these states, women's expectations are highest, again probably because the states are so populous and there are many choices.

There is significantly less data available for other countries than for the United States: only 9,701 vs. 177,427. The reader should understand that statistical errors are more likely to appear for other countries because less data is available. However, we can still determine that country is a significant determiner of preferences. In general, a small man is twice as likely to be preferred by a women outside the United States as within. There are two possibilities. First, people in the Unites States are more superficial than in other countries. Second, women in the United States are taller and so prefer taller men. The table below shows in rank order, from worst to best, how well a man 5' 4' tall would fare in each country. Only countries with 50 or more records are listed. The third column shows the mean height of women in that country. Except for the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand, there does not appear to be a significant correlation between women's height in a country and their preference for a tall man.

Country5' 4" man % in
Preference
Median Woman's
Height
Caribbean8%65
United States11%65
Hong Kong13%63
Canada13%65
England14%65
Japan15%64
Germany17%66
Brazil17%65
China19%64
Russia22%65
Australia22%66
France23%66
Philippines25%62
Indonesia29%64
Thailand40%63

There are interesting distributions in age and race. Women 18 to 39 are most likely to include a short man in their preference. Between 40 and 59, they prefer a taller man and from 60 on, they seem less concerned about height. This is somewhat counter intuitive. One would expect younger people of both sexes to be more shallow and to gain depth of personality as they age. One possible explanation is that the middle-aged women were married and divorced and now have higher expectations than they did when they were young. Preferences also varied by race. Those women who described themselves as Other or Didn't Say, where most likely to include a short man in their preferences. Asian women preferred short men to a greater extent than any named race. Those who described themselves as Multiracial, Hispanic or White were in the middle while African-American/Black women most often preferred taller men.

Correlations by body type are easier to explain. Women who described themselves as Petite or who Didn't say were more likely to include a short man in their preferences. Not surprisingly, women who are Slim/Slender or Athletic were least likely to include short men. It is easy to conclude that these woman have many choices and are less likely to compromise. Women who described themselves as Average, A Few Extra Pounds or Large were in the middle between the other extremes.

Other analysis shows that smaller women are less likely prefer a man less than or equal to their own height. Taller woman are more forgiving. In the U.S., about 7% of women between 4' 10" and 5' 6" are will choose a shorter man. 18% of women 5'7" and taller will choose a smaller man. As the woman's height increases, so does her propensity to prefer a shorter man.

A short women will choose a man whose height is less than or equal to her own 16% of the time, while taller woman will make that choice 42% of the time.

Outside the United States, 22% of short women are likely to choose a man the same height or smaller. Just over half of taller women will choose a man the same height or smaller. The table below shows the details of the analysis for each woman's height between 4' 10" and 6' 8".

Woman's
Height
United StatesNon-United States
Will Choose
      Smaller      
Will Choose
Smaller or Equal
Will Choose
      Smaller      
Will Choose
Smaller or Equal
  4' 10"2%4%4%9%
  4' 11"1%3%2%8%
  5' 0"0%19%1%30%
  5' 1"11%13%13%18%
  5' 2"8%12%12%17%
  5' 3"7%12%11%19%
  5' 4"6%13%9%18%
  5' 5"7%18%10%27%
  5' 6"8%23%11%27%
  5' 7"13%32%27%49%
  5' 8"14%37%16%43%
  5' 9"19%45%26%52%
  5' 10"25%60%26%64%
  5' 11"38%71%33%67%
  6' 0"51%88%50%93%
  6' 1"72%85%60%72%
  6' 2"77%91%56%88%
  6' 3"74%88%100%100%
  6' 4"78%94%0%0%
  6' 5"67%92%57%57%
  6' 6"100%100%50%50%
  6' 7"100%100%76%76%
  6' 8"88%88%33%67%

Caveat
This study provides a strong indication of what women who use online personals ads want in a man with respect to his height. However, these conclusions may not necessarily translate to the larger population of woman who are dating but prefer to meet men in other venues. In the future we will attempt to validate these results and conclusions against the larger population.