The short answer is probably…if you’re female.
If you are a fan of the TV shows The Bachelor/The Bachelorette, then you know that a central theme on the shows is which of the contestants is there for “the right reason;” the right reason being finding love. However considering the completely unnatural set up of the show, I have my doubts about how much of the final choice is really due to “finding love”. I recently found some data on the contestants on Wikipedia to start exploring this question; is it really love, or are there other factors at play in the final choice?
From Wiki, I was able to get the names of the contestants from some of the more recent seasons, their ages, hometowns, occupations, and when they were eliminated. I then pulled a data set from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which gave me average salaries for various occupations by state. I had to match the occupation titles from this data set to those given by the Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants, and I will admit sometimes things got a bit fuzzy (for example, one of the Bachelorettes is reportedly a “Mineral Coordinator”; the closest I could get from occupations available in the labor data was a “Geological and Petroleum Technician”). However most of the time the matches were pretty clear, and from there I was able to get an approximation of each Bachelor/Bachelorette’s salary.
Before I get to into what I found regarding salaries, here is a diagram of the various job titles that the contestants hold by gender:
In the wordcloud above, an occupation would be attributed to the gender in which it occurs more frequently. The magnitude of the gender discrepancy is depicted by the size of the word. For example, “No Income” is attributed to the female contestants, and shows up in relatively large font, indicating that there are far more females than males with no income (the reported occupations in this category tended to be students, however there were also a few odd occupations in this category like “Dog Lover” and “Free Spirit”). Female contestants tended to be models, dancers, hairstylists, teachers and nurses more often then males, while the male contestants tended to be athletes, sales reps, business owners, executives, and financial advisers.
Considering the job titles that occur most frequently for each gender, it won’t be too surprising that there is a gap in the salaries of the men vs. women. Below is a density plot depicting this difference:
This chart shows that the most common female salary is around 50k (the purple peak), while the most common male salary is closer to 60k (the green peak). Additionally we can see that the female contestants have more salaries under 65k (where the purple line is above the green), and the male contestants beat out the females in salaries over 65k (where the green line is above the purple).
Next I wanted to look into the interaction between salary and how far the contestants got on the show. I labeled the contestants as “Finalists” (either the winner or the runner-up), “Early Elimination” (eliminated in episode 1 or 2 of the season) or “Late Elimination” (everyone else after throwing out those who quit or were removed). I was expecting to see that contestants with higher salaries tended get further, however, that was not actually the case for both genders.
It looks like the bachelorettes tend to choose men with higher salaries in the end, however the pattern in the chart above is not strong enough to be statistically significant. It appears that the bachelorettes do not discriminate during the eliminations, as the men who are eliminated early versus late have the same average salary. It’s only when comparing those who were eliminated early or late to the finalists that we see a salary difference (80k to 90k, although again, this difference was not significant and could be due to chance variations in the data).
However, I found the opposite effect for the bachelors. The bachelors tend to choose women with lower salaries; women who are eliminated early have significantly higher salaries (64k on average) when compared to women who are finalists (54k on average, p < .05), and the women who are eliminated late in the process fall in between.
Before making the conclusion that the salary would impact success on the show, I wanted to check whether the result could be confounded by another variable that I had access to, age. A bar chart of the contestant’s age follows a very similar pattern to the chart above:
Looking at this chart, it does seem that age and salary could be confounded. While it appears that the bachelors prefer women with lower salaries, it could just be that they prefer younger women who are earlier in their careers and therefore may make less. Same for the bachelorettes, their apparent preference for men with higher salaries could just be a preference for men who are older and therefore are more advanced in their careers. To check whether this variable could be a confound, I looked at the relationship between salary and age for the men and women.
For male contestants, age does seem to be correlated with salary (the older you are, the higher your salary), so the bachelorettes’ apparent preference for men with higher salaries could be confounded by this variable and could actually be a preference for men who are older. This makes it very difficult to say whether your salary would impact your success on the bachelorette if you were a male contestant, or whether age would be the more important factor. Put differently, if you were on the show competing against other contestants of your same age, it is unclear from this data whether salary would play a factor in who is selected to continue.
However, the regression line for the female contestants seems to show that there is no relationship between age and salary, indicating that the effect of the bachelors choosing women with lower salaries is independent of their preference for younger women. Therefore, if you were a female contestant on the bachelor competing with other women of your same age, you would be likely to stick around longer if you make less the other contestants. The bachelors on the show may have the best intentions to find love with one of the contestants, but what the data seems to show is that “love” blossoms when the contestant is younger with a lower than average salary! Perhaps these bachelors should re-examine their “right reasons.”
*While this is all in good fun, there are quite a few caveats to this analysis:
- There are very few observations in each category, especially the finalists, which makes it difficult to generate legitimate statistical results from the data.
- There are many factors that I do not have access to, so while I may have been able to check for a correlation between salary and age, I was not able to check for a correlation with any other factors.
- The salary data that I used are averages for the contestant’s home states, not the actual contestant’s data, and many of the careers have huge salary ranges. For example, a model could be working a few odd jobs a month, or making multiple millions as a supermodel; an average does not convey where in the spectrum a contestant may fall.