"Taller workers earn on average higher salaries. Recent research has proposed cognitive abilities and social skills as explanations for the height-wage premium. Another possible mechanism, employer discrimination, has found little support. In this paper, we provide some evidence in favor of the discrimination hypothesis. Using a cross section of 13 countries, we show that there is a consistent height-wage premium across Europe and that it is largely due to occupational sorting. We show that height has a significant effect for the occupational sorting of employed workers but not for the self-employed. We interpret this result as evidence of employer discrimination in favor of taller workers. Our results are consistent with the theoretical predictions of recent models on statistical discrimination and employer learning." - https://ideas.repec.org/p/ces/ceswps/_2733.html
I've seen people claim tall workers earn more due to superior intellect, confidence, or ambition. Clearly, that makes no sense because self-employed short people are not affected by the wage gap. If tall people were inherently superior, they should also do better on their own, by making smarter business decisions, being more creative, forming better connections, etc. They do not. Trying to link positive personality traits to a physical trait like height is like doing the same for skin color. It's illogical and a blatant case of just-world hypothesis.
If a worker was 5'0" and 100 lbs soaking wet, and the other was 6'5" with broad shoulders, who would people take more seriously at first glance? If women were bigger and stronger than men on average, would sexism look the same? Speaking of which, unlike height, gender still has an effect on the self-employed. At least with this, you can make a case about how a woman's own mentality/choices matter. This is not the case with height.
Society simply links importance with size. This is evident in how we say "a man of his stature." I was reading a fantasy novel (Gotrek & Felix The Reckoning) and there was a part where they spotted and knew immediately who was king, because "he towered over his advisors." I also played a video game (Dragon Quest Heroes 2) where the protagonist literally said in one scene, "I expected the king to be taller." Point is, if you are looking to obtain a better position at work, it literally pays to be tall, because people associate value with height.
This "confidence/ambition" thing is the salt in the wound. Essentially the excuse is, "you don't negotiate for more, so it's your fault if you get shafted." They're basically saying you're not hungry enough. This all becomes contradictory, when we remind ourselves of how people stereotype short men as being ambitious. Apparently it happens so often that society that needed to coin the "Napoleon Complex." Yet when it's convenient, we're to pretend that short men are less hungry and more meek? If short men are less ambitious, then why do short men get the stereotype of being more ambitious? I'm not even going to go into how ridiculous it is that's it's considered a negative if a short man has more ambition, but a positive when, for example, a poor person does the same. That's for a different discussion here.
The least everyone can do is be more aware of our biases, instead of rationalizing how it must be short people's fault for not doing as well. Harvard's Implicit Association Test has shown that people are as biased about height as things like age or race. Trying to rationalize all this away with platitudes like "be more confident" is very disingenuous.
And no, this phenomenon is not because tall people start off in rich families. As written here http://www.jonathanrauch.com/jrauch_articles/2004/08/short_guys_fini.html:
"Give job recruiters two invented resumes that have been carefully matched except for the candidates' height, as one study did in 1969. Fully 72% of the time, the taller man is "hired". And when they are hired, they tend also to earn rather more..."
"Looking at several professions, one study found that people in high-ranking jobs were about two inches taller than those down below, a pattern that held even when comparing men of like educational and socioeconomic status. Senior civil servants in Britain, for instance, tend to be taller than junior ones."
In 1994 James Sargent and David Blanchflower, of America's Dartmouth College, analysed a sample of about 6,000 male Britons whose progress was monitored from birth to early adulthood. Short teenaged boys made less money when they became young adults (aged 23) than their taller peers--even after other attributes, such as scores on ability tests or parents' social status, were factored out. For every four inches of height in adolescence, earnings went up more than 2% in early adulthood. Another survey, of graduates of the University of Pittsburgh, found that those who were 6'2" or taller received starting salaries 12% higher than those under six feet."This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows that height is 60-80% genetic. Unless you're a starving child in Africa, it's very unlikely you're tall because you're richer, but rather, you're more likely to be rich if you're taller.
More on height discrimination in business: