One reason could be discrimination against short students, says the author of the report, which has appeared in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
The study examined the relationship between the height of over 950,000 Swedish men born between 1950 and 1975 and the level of education they reached in the 27 years after they turned 18.
43% of the men who were taller than 194 centimetres had at least one year of college education – compared to only 22% of the men who were shorter than 165 centimetres.
“It’s possible that there is some sort of stigma or discrimination in society,” said Finn Rasmussen at the Karolinska Institute’s Department of Public Health Sciences.
“There is discrimination against people with different ethnic backgrounds, so why not against short people?” he told The Local.
The men’s height and IQ were measured when they joined Sweden’s military service system as conscripts. Rasmussen and his colleagues followed the men’s social and educational development through their personal numbers.
“This is a very large study conducted over a long period of time. After adjusting for IQ and socio-economic group, the relationship is still very strong,” he said.
Rasmussen, who as a 178cm tall associate professor is in the minority for educational attainment in his height group, pointed out that historically there have been very strong differences in height between socio-economic groups.
“Poor people have tended to be shorter, rich people have tended to be taller. And over time there is genetic selection as tall people marry tall people and have tall children,” he said.
Such a vast quantity of data is only available for the male section of the Swedish population and Rasmussen declined to speculate on whether the same pattern would be expected among women.
However, adjustments were also made to account for the fact that people are generally getting taller and enjoying longer periods of education.
“The youngest group was only born in 1975, so this is still current. The pattern does not seem to be changing,” said Rasmussen.