Assortative mating for human height: A meta‐analysis


Objectives: The study of assortative mating for height has a rich history in human biology. Although the positive correlation between the stature of spouses has often been noted in western populations, recent papers suggest that mating patterns for stature are not universal. The objective of this paper was to review the published evidence to examine the strength of and universality in assortative mating for height. Methods: We conducted an extensive literature review and meta‐analysis. We started with published reviews but also searched through secondary databases. Our search led to 154 correlations of height between partners. We classified the populations as western and non‐western based on geography. These correlations were then analyzed via meta‐analytic techniques. Results: 148 of the correlations for partner heights were positive and the overall analysis indicates moderate positive assortative mating (r = .23). Although assortative mating was slightly stronger in countries that can be described as western compared to non‐western, this difference was not statistically significant. We found no evidence for a change in assortative mating for height over time. There was substantial residual heterogeneity in effect sizes and this heterogeneity was most pronounced in western countries. Conclusions: Positive assortative mating for height exists in human populations, but is modest in magnitude suggesting that height is not a major factor in mate choice. Future research is necessary to understand the underlying causes of the large amount of heterogeneity observed in the degree of assortative mating across human populations, which may stem from a combination of methodological and ecological differences.

In American Journal of Human Biology