Perspective: Use It Or Lose It

I recently discovered that the CDC has Anthropometric Reference Data (PDF), otherwise known as various body measurements (height, weight, waist, etc) broken down by age, gender, and percentiles.

Personally I find this data fascinating.  The height tables, for example, were a wake-up call. At 68″ tall I know, intellectually, that I’m on the tall side for a woman.  But unlike, say, jr high, I feel that I’m about average height.

Looking at the data on women age 20 and older, measured in inches (table 10) tells a different tale:

50% are shorter than 63.8
75% are shorter than 65.6
95% are shorter than 68.2

Huh? I’m taller than 95% of women?  Since when?  (And why are “regular length” women’s pants aimed at someone 67″ tall and “petite” for someone 64″ tall?)  My brain was actually boggled by this.  Do women grow taller here?  Then I realize: I work in … software. I work mostly with … men.  Men tend to be taller.  Oh.  I skipped down to the  data for men  (table 12) and realized that’s where I usually compare myself:

25% are shorter than 65.6
50% are shorter than 69.4
75% are shorter than 71.5

Oy.

There’s the weight table.  Again, all US women age 20+ in pounds (table 4, pregnant women excluded) shows that 85% of women weigh less than 207lbs.  (95% weigh less than 250lbs.)

Of course, the census estimates that the US also has a population of 304 million and that by 2010 there will be over 120 million women age 18 and over (PDF).   Even if there’s only 100 million adult women that’s still 15 million women, which means that Oprah is not alone.  But it does help me understand why she freaked out about weighing 200lbs.  Or why people have no idea what 300lbs looks like.

19 thoughts on “Perspective: Use It Or Lose It

  1. (And why are “regular length” women’s pants aimed at someone 67″ tall and “petite” for someone 64″ tall?)

    Thank you! Exactly. Who are these people making pants for?

  2. Interesting. I’m also 5’8″ and I also feel like I’m pretty average. But, I generally attribute that to being married to a man who is 6’5,” and having grown up with a father who is 6’4,” which makes me feel short much of the time. ;)

  3. Hi there, interesting info! Curious about your calculation toward the end though.

    If you were trying to calculate how many women (“15% of women weigh more than 207”) that is, then you need to multiply it by the number of women (presumably 18+ in age) in America. There are not 304 million adult women in America; there are 304 total people in America. You gotta eliminate men and children to get the right multiplier, and you’re thus gonna get a much smaller number than 45 million.

    Your point remains, regardless, but the math geek in me wanted to point that out… :)

  4. I am 5’3″ 3/4 (which I usually round up to 5’4″), placing me at almost EXACTLY average for women. I am routinely teased by both women and men about being short. I wonder how this data varies for different generations; I do think that as a young woman I’m shorter than average around my peers, but it seems that most of the elderly women I’ve met are shorter than me. Heights have significantly increased in the past few generations.

  5. Well at 5’10.5″, I suppose that makes me really tall. But then my s-i-l is 6ft so I think she is tall. When really we are taller than the majority of women around. But and there’s a big but..heheh. I’m 325 and she’s 180. I look gargantuan, she just looks thin and long. I remember being 180 and even 156. And well at 180 I was athletic looking and at 156 most of my family referred to me as a walking skeleton (awful). When I ask someone to guess my weight most guess in the upper 200’s, some unfortunate few think 225 and I chuckle. As for men my brother is 6’8 and my husband is barely 5’6 (my ex was 5’1). My brother weighs 400lbs and most don’t guess that either. My husband weighs around 135 on a good day and at 117 when we met, at which point I was 220. My son however is 6’2, 156 and wears the same size clothes as my husband (his dad was my 5’1 ex, unreal). I and my husband’s daughter is 5’7 and 120 at 13. Plus I have 3 other younger children but this comment is sort of rambly, :).

    This morning my dh and I went out for breakfast where all the general contractors hang out for the mill. As always the first thing that gets noticed is my height. They do this wide eyed up down look and then their eyes go from up down to wow she is big. Lol, then out steps my lil hubby from my side and the looks …. just make me laugh inside! I suppose I look like I could eat him whole! I’ve never felt average amongst my female peers, even at my thinnest. But he and I are usually at the odds of the spectrum when in a crowd of our peers, not hard to pick us out.
    Like you I do find this data insightful! Thanks for the link, will check the site out! Now if only clothes shopping wasn’t so difficult!!!! ;-)

  6. The only way I can explain the pants thing is that they are expecting the wearer to be wearing high heels. Then the pants would be about the right length. Of course, I never wear heels with jeans, so it’s pretty pointless for me. At 5′ 6″ I can find pants to fit me in a “petite” length, but it always burns my ass because I think, “what do the ACTUALLY petite women wear?” They must have to hem their pants. Or wear heels.

  7. @Eve: At 5″2, I have to hem almost all my pants (work, dress, jeans, but not sweats) and most of my skirts (miniskirts are knee-length on me). I suppose the fashion industry thinks that short women would be more likely to wear heels in order to be taller? I do see where the logic comes from though, it’s much easier to take pants up to wear with sneakers or flats than it is to make pants longer to wear with heels.

  8. I’m 5’5, but I have really short legs. I wear a 22 womens in pants, but I don’t really think I’m THAT much bigger than most women. I don’t really get it. *Of course, I do weigh 250, so maybe I’m in denial. Or maybe it’s because, like you, I’m around men most of the time…*

  9. I’m 5’9 and currently around 350. Most people wouldn’t think I’m over 300 because the bulk of my fat is in my boobs and thighs, and I’m able-bodied and not bedridden, another assumption about people who weigh over 300 lbs. But I wear anywhere from a size 22 to a 32 depending on the cut, so I know I’m really big. And most of the members in my family are tall and fat too, so I’ve always been around large people.

    Usually I have no trouble with pants length except if the bottoms are deliberately cut to go over feet.

  10. These stats were interesting. At 5’10” with disproportionally long legs, I find buying pants hell. The few tall women stores don’t make pants big enough in the waist and plus size stores don’t carry tall pants. I can buy jeans from Casual Male XL (at enormous cost to ship them to Canada — yet another complication). And unfortunately, pants are really tough to sew yourself. I’m planning to take a sewing class this fall, though, and maybe eventually I’ll be able to make my own, or at least learn to make sufficiently believable extensions for the leg bottoms to claim it’s a fashion statement.

  11. Wow, cool! Thanks for posting this.

    I am in the 50th percentile for height, the 5th for weight, (knew those) and I am far from getting on the chart for BMI. I never thought about it like that.. does this mean 99.999% of women in my age group have higher BMI than me? I fail at math.

    Re: pants, you can always hem too-long, but there’s no point in buying too-short.

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