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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Beauty vs Banker

Last week a "spectacularly beautiful" 25 year old woman sent a post to Craigslist (an American network of online communities) looking to get married to a man who makes at least US$500,000 a year.

You can read the full post here.

Here is an excerpt:

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board ? Any wives ? Could you send me some tips ? I dated a business man who made an average of around 200 - 250K. But that’s where I seem to hit a roadblock. $250,000 won’t get me to Central Park West. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker, and lives in Tribeca. She’s not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right ? How do I get to her level ?

She might be a brilliant satirist!

Please hold your insults - I’m putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial - at least I’m being up front about it. I wouldn’t be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn’t able to match them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice hearth and home'.

Or maybe not. She sounds brutally honest.

Lo and behold, an investment banker who says that he really makes over $500K a year turns up and posts this equally honest (and no less brutal) reply:

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is a plain and simple crappy business deal. Here’s why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here’s the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity - in fact, it is very likely that my income will increase, but it is an absolute certainty that you won’t be getting any more beautiful!

Then he goes into the details...

So, in economic terms, you are a depreciating asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, however, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain - you’re 25 now and will likely remain pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 - stick a fork in you!

Ow ow that hurts... but there's more!

In case you think I’m being cruel, I would say the following: if my money were to go away, so would you - so when your beauty fades I need an out too. It’s as simple as that. So the deal that makes sense for me is dating, not marriage.

... followed by even more snark...

I find it hard to believe that, if you are as gorgeous as you say you are, your $500K man hasn’t found you - if only for a tryout. By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money - and then we wouldn’t need to have this difficult conversation.

Gold-digging Beauty vs Wise-ass Banker in head to head combat.

Suddenly it's the talk of the town!

Banker seems to have won the fight (though a blogger has written a comeback in favour of Beauty).

Putting aside my own personal revulsion of investment bankers, his snarky retort does seem plausible enough.

But is it supported by evidence? (Yes you must say it using Dawkins' voice)

Here at Fresh Brainz, we are never content to guess. We must test!

Banker has put up two main assertions which we can examine in detail: Banker's income will increase and Beauty's looks will fade.

1. Will Banker's income increase?

Here is the data for the average income of investment bankers, over the number of years spent on the job. I've put it into a chart for easy visualization.

As you can see, investment bankers do earn an obscene amount of money, being the repugnant, self-serving people that they are.

What's more, the trendline appears damn close (R = 0.997) to an exponential curve, though admittedly three data points isn't much to go on.

Banker is right - even a middling investment banker like himself will make enough money by his 30s to fulfill Beauty's requirements, and continue raking in disgusting amounts of cash.

While I am not convinced that his money will "continue into perpetuity" (one can only hope that his greasy kids will kill each other over the inheritance money), Banker does have a good chance of increasing his income while alive and kicking.

So Beauty 0 : Banker 1

2. Will Beauty's looks fade?

To find data for this claim, we must turn to research in the psychology of beauty. There are classic papers by Sontag 1972 and Deuisch et al. 1986 that are relevant to this topic, but I was unable to obtain their original articles.

Luckily there is an recent study (Teuscher and Teuscher 2006) that can shed light on the relationship between looks and age. You can download the original paper here.

In this study, 354 participants of different sexual orientations were asked to evaluate the facial attractiveness of people shown in 126 photos, on the scale of 1 (very unattractive) to 10 (very attractive).

Here is the graph that shows male rating of female faces in four age groups:

1 - 18 to 29.9 years
2 - 30 to 44.9 years
3 - 45 to 59.9 years
4 - 60 to 78 years

Assuming that Banker is a heterosexual male, the relevant data is the solid line on the graph. You can see that male appraisal of female faces drops from slightly over 5 points (for women aged 18 - 29.9 years) to about 3 (60-78 years), showing a clear downward trend over time.

While I can't predict that Beauty's looks will have accelerated depreciation (the data approximates a linear decrease, but is attractiveness a linear measure?) this data supports the claim that she will look less attractive to men as she gets older.

That leaves me no choice but to begrudgingly concede that Beauty 0 : Banker 2

Thus the winner is...


Whoopdedoo. So Banker, here's a cheap plastic medal I found in the dollar store just to rub your hypersensitive and overinflated ego.

Sure, go celebrate.

In your relentless and neverending quest to defoliate the world of arable assets, why not help save the environment by picking up a Darwin Award too?

You can make a difference!


Anonymous said...


And they are both being "brutally honest" too.

Brings to mind the: "Does this dress make me look fat?" question :D

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Ah... a trick question!

*pulls a rabbit out of the hat*