Babies who are taller on their first birthday are likely to earn more later in life, researchers believe.
Each 2cms is worth 3.5% in income later on in life, the study says
Middle-aged men who were more than 80cms high aged one were earning 50% more than their peers who were 72cms or less, the study of 4,630 boys found.
Once social background was taken into account, each 2cms was worth 3.5% in income, the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal reported.
Shorter babies were also likely to be doing more manual work, the study said.
Some 44% of babies who were 72cms or less became labourers, compared to just one in five boys who were more than 80cms.
Researchers studied boys born in Finland between 1934 and 1944 - girls were excluded because many women of that generation stayed at home - and compared their height aged one to what they were earning in 1990.
Previous studies have linked growth during childhood to future career success but most have looked at development up to at least school age.
But the team from the University of Southampton and Finland's National Public Health Institute concluded growth in the first year was an accurate indicator of earning potential.
The study showed that babies who grew slowly tended to achieve lower academic attainment.
Researchers said this was either because slow physical growth was accompanied by slow mental growth or because babies who were not as well-nourished and ill missed out on sensory stimulation.
The team added baby height at the time of the study was broadly the same as it would be today.
Report author Professor David Barker said he hoped the findings would make people realise the first year was critical in a child's development.
"While the study was of children in Finland in the 1930s and 1940s, it is relevant for children in today's Britain.
"There are too many babies who are not being given the opportunity to thrive and that will have an effect on their future development.
"We must start to address this straight away."
Edward Melhuish, professor of human development at London's Birkbeck College, agreed baby growth could be used to predict future development.
"There is a slight association between height and intelligence.
"The quality of food and health of a baby does have consequences on mental as well as physical development."
But he said it should be seen in the context of social background.
"Generally, people of a higher social class tend to be taller than those from a lower social class."