In October, the government published the latest version of their National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study of sizes, "Anthropometric Reference Data for Children and Adults: 2003-2005," which is of great interest to clothing manufacturers. And you might find it interesting too.
Let's look just at the medians for people ages 20-39, since they are most likely to be in the marriage market.
So, the average Non-Hispanic white man between 20 and 39 is 5'-10.4" tall (178.9 cm.).
People are measured while wearing foam slippers.
As you can see, whites are a little taller than blacks, with Hispanics lagging more than a standard deviation behind.
The average height of the Hispanic population is probably bipolar, depending upon whether they were born in the U.S. or not. At the illegal immigrant march I observed in Van Nuys, CA in 2006, the average participant was very short, with men averaging well under five and a half feet tall. (This suggests, by the way, that U.S.-born Hispanics didn't care enough about illegal immigrants to turn out in large numbers.)
The male-female gaps are similar for all three groups, with women averaging 92%-93% of the height of their menfolk.
The 95th percentile for younger white males is 6'-2.9", for blacks 6'-3.1", and for Hispanics is 6'-0.3" For both white and black women, age 20-39, the 95th percentile is 5'-8.7", while for Hispanics its 5'6.5".
The standard deviation for white males appears to be a little more than 2 1/4th inches and for other males around 2 1/2 inches. The average NBA player is between 6'-7" and 6'-8" (and has been for the last 20 years). I believe that's measured in socks rather than in shoes, although college heights tend to be exaggerated. For instance, last year's UCLA All-American center Kevin Love was listed by UCLA at 6'-10" but was measured by the NBA for the draft at 6'-7.25.
Assuming a black median of 5'-10" and a standard deviation of 2.5", that means that 6'-8" is four standard deviations from the mean. Assuming that height is normally distributed (a big assumption),then one standard deviation above the mean is 6'-0.5 and that is the 84th percentile. Two s.d.'s up is 6'-3" and that is the 97.7th percentile. Three s.d.'s up is 6'-5.5" and that is the 99.87th percentile. And four s.d.'s at 6'-8" would be the 99.997th percentile.
Five s.d.'s would be 6'-10.5" (a seven-footer in recruiting parlance) and if the population is normally distributed, only one would be born in America, black or white, each year. So, the population probably has "fat tails" when it comes to height.
Still, it's worth noting how rare truly tall men are. When Colby Cosh asked who was the tallest man famous for something not height-related, his readers mostly came up with novelist Michael Crichton at around 6'-10" and economist John Kenneth Galbraith at maybe 6'-9". (The pretender to the throne of Albania is often said to be 7 feet tall, but I can't say how accurate that is.)
When I was young and naive, I said to a friend who had gone to three colleges, "Even if you are really tall, you have to be a good athlete to play college basketball." He said, "No, you don't. You just have to be tall. On every campus I've been on, there were two seven footers, and they were the starting and back-up centers on the basketball team." When I was at Rice, there were two guys on the basketball team listed at 6'-11" and, sure enough, they were the tallest people on campus. When I was at UCLA with 35,000 students, there were two seven footers, the starting center Stuart Gray at 7'-0" (who spent 8 years in the NBA as a backup center) and the 25 year-old backup center, a clumsy-looking ex-auto mechanic named Mark Eaton, who is said to be 7'-4" and 290. Eaton kept improving as he aged into his height and eventually made the NBA All-Star game. But I don't recall anybody else on campus close to them in height.
Among whites, the median man 20-39 is 0.4" taller than the median man age 40-59 and 1.6" taller than the median man 60 or over (however, old people shrink).
People are weighed wearing disposable paper medical gowns.
At 148 pounds, younger white women average only 80% as heavy as younger white men, but black women weight 90% as much as their menfolk, so the male-female gap is only half as large among blacks. And Latinas weight 88% as much as Latinos.
So, the median white man age 20-39 has a 37 inch waist, and the median younger white woman has a 33.5 inch waist, 9% smaller. (Pregnant women are excluded.) Among blacks, however, the typical younger woman has a wider waist than her male counterpart.
The oft-criticized Body Mass Index (BMI) reflects the same findings: whites are the skinniest, with black women considerably fatter than black men.
The total sample size who were subjected to quite a few measurements were an impressive 19,593, so subgroup sample sizes were quite adequate. (The smallest subgroup shown below numbered 361.)