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America’s tallest and shortest states

The tallest adult men in America live in Iowa and Alabama, while the tallest women live in South Dakota.

Hawaii, meanwhile, can lay claim to the shortest members of either sex.

Those figures come from the latest release of data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a massive annual survey of health and wellness in the United States. In 2017 the CDC polled more than 450,000 people for the survey, enough to provide accurate estimates of health-related data in all 50 states. The typical public opinion poll, by contrast, surveys about 1,000 people nationwide.

The BRFSS is used to track state-level trends in weight and obesity, healthy eating, and physical activity. But the BRFSS also asks its respondents, all of whom are age 18 and older, about their height.


At the state level it runs from about 5 feet 9 inches tall in Hawaii to about 5 feet 11 inches in Alabama and Iowa. Generally speaking, men in the northern plains states and a swath of Appalachia report the tallest heights, while men in the northeast and southwest tend to be shorter.

What’s driving those differences? Race is one big factor. Medical examination data maintained by the CDC shows that white men (average height of 5 feet 10 inches rounded to the nearest inch) and black men (5 feet 9 inches) tend to be significantly taller than Asian (5 feet 7 inches) or Hispanic (5 feet 7 inches) men. Hawaii, California, and New York have high Hispanic and Asian populations. In Hawaii, fewer than one-third of the population identifies as black or white. In Alabama, by contrast, 96 percent of the population is black or white.