Why are we getting littler?

Pax Arcana

Easily the best part of the first presidential debate on Friday night was when Arizona Senator and befuddled old man John McCain launched into a brief non sequitor about South Koreans being an average of three inches taller than North Koreans.

That the data point sprung seemingly out of nowhere was hilarious. That it ignored the shrinking down of the average American was downright unpatriotic. According to the New York Times, we’ve got our own Napoleonic complex in the works:

While the conditions for North Koreans are troubling, Americans have a similar height gap to worry about, and it also appears to be due to a lower standard of living, poor health care and inadequate nutrition. Last summer, the journal Social Science Quarterly reported that Americans are, quite literally, falling short of Europeans. In 1880, Americans were the tallest people in the world. But by 2000, American men, at an average height of 5-feet-10.5-inches, ranked 9th, and women, at about 5-feet-5-inches, fell to 15th. Several Northern European countries rank the highest in height, with the Dutch coming in first, at just over 6 feet for the men and 5-feet-7-inches for the women.

The new American paradigm

Obviously the reason for this is immigration. The massive influx of short people from countries such as Mexico, China, and, um, Mexo-china, must really be messing with averages, right?

The height gap between Americans and Northern Europeans can’t be explained by an influx of short immigrants. Experts say the United States takes in too few immigrants to account for the disparity, and the height statistics cited in the article include only English-speaking native-born Americans, and don’t include people of Asian and Hispanic descent.

OK. So what’s the problem, then? It’s not like our newfound shortness has anything to do with our moms feeding us Diet Coke from the bottle and us spending the entirety of our high school years eating nothing but McRib sandwiches, right?

According to Mr. Bilger, researchers have found that Americans lose the most height to Northern Europeans in infancy and adolescence, “which implicates pre- and post-natal care and teenage eating habits.”

Of course we are free to ignore all of this, because it relies on so-called “facts” gathered by people doing “research.” And as we all know, these “facts” are nothing more than ammunition for America-hating propaganda rags like the New York Times to make us feel small — in this case quite literally.

Short North Koreans . . . and Americans [NYT]


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