Pop Culture Introspection, Part I: Why Do the Couples From The Bachelorette Do So Much Better Than Those From The Bachelor?

 Of the sixteen The Bachelor shows, only four relationships from the show lasted at least a year.  Only two couples are still together.  In contrast, five of the seven The Bachelorette seasons led to relationships that lasted at least a year. (Although only two of the couples are still together.)

Why the difference? Just chance, or does it tell us something about men, women, and relationships?

David Sommerset

Well... If we agree that men are evolutionally predisposed to be more promiscuous than women, then a system in which male power and status are enhanced should lead to greater promiscuity by the men, thus bringing about the end of the relationships faster. Elevating the power of the women would, similarly, have the opposite effect. However the sample size is ridiculously small, so this is nothing more than conjecture.


To be honest, the sample size isn't that small... (we can analyse the choices 23 individuals made among 575 contestants; and many more "decision points" at each occasion when there was a rose on the line). There's also a unique "lab-like" environment in which conversations, physical reactions and retrospective analysis by contestants about their thoughts during each episode give a lot of insight and data about what may have motivated their choices.


Women go more by long-term compatibility, men go more by mystery and attraction (which fade)...


Given that both shows require both men and women to participate, I struggle to see how gender differences could explain the results unless it is specific to the process of choosing from among a group of publicity hungry potential partners.


If we look at the typical relationship style in America, it normally falls under the format of women are pursued by men who compete for her attention. If we look at the Bachelorettes on the show, they are typically attractive women between the ages of 24-29 years? If that's the case they have been potentially dating since around 15-16 years old, giving them 9-14 years of experience in picking out individuals that are pursuing them versus the limited experience a man would have in this current relationship model.

The bachelorette has one woman who's being pursued by several men; which falls into the same relationship structure that is common in America.

The bachelor by contrast; requires women to compete for men. It's a different approach and possibly a skill that most men haven't developed to successfully identify the needs of a relationship beyond the present day.


I really don't think it's a gender issue. I think we can all agree that both of the shows are reality tv gimmicks. the contestants for either show know that it's a media stunt and a cash grab, and the type of Bachelor/Bachelorette that are casted for the shows is a particular individual that already is financially well off and i wouldn't think it would be unreasonable that they would accept free money for showing off their wealth. I agree with David Below in that the sample size is just too small.


Are you really trying to generalize from contestants on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette to the population as a whole?


This seems a ridiculous question to even ask. These "relationships" are the result of a neurotic game played out before television cameras. They are not relationships in the normal sense....at all. I don't know why anyone would expect them to last, for either show. It's just made for TV BS. And yet I see people in the audience just riveted by it, like it is life or death. Mostly women though. Women love this cheap drama stuff. A lot.

Shouldn't Freakonomics be concerned with more econ-oriented stuff? Like for example what is the effect on personal income/debt/divorce, of watching crap TV shows religiously? Do it by gender, by age.


The teensy sample sizes should induce us not to draw conclusions either way, methinks.


There's an old joke about a rich king who was looking for a wife, and was given three choices among three very different types/looks of women. Which one did he choose? The one with the biggest breasts, of course.

Let's face it -- we men are pigs. God bless us.


Speak for yourself. I've been a man all my adult life, and have never found large breasts all that attractive. Indeed, beyond a certain hypertrophied size (probably achieved via implants) they are positively unattractive to me.

This only points out the fallacy of many other comments, which start from the position that all men are this and all women are that. In the real world, there's plenty of variation. I also suspect that people who are both willing to appear on shows like these, and able to make it through the selection process, are at least a couple of sigmas wide of the norm.

Eric M. Jones.

It is not fair to compare in this case. Contestants are screened. Maybe you should say, "Why is the Bachelorette screener so much better than the Bachelor screener?"


I think this has a lot more to do with decisions and commitment to those decisions than it does with any specific differences among how men and women pick prospective partners. I believe that we have to take into account the amount of public scrutiny and judgement that the contestants get during and after the show. It is also very important to know if the same criteria is used for choosing the Bachelorette and Bachelor's namesake as well as the respective contestants.

I would conjecture that this public judgement might make the bachelorettes remain more committed to the relationship as their perceived level of judgement may seem to be higher than their male counterparts. That might also be why there is convergence (though still difference) when moving past the 1 year mark. I also suppose that the process may be weighted so that they are much more interested in finding a bachelorette that is willing to and looking to settle down wherein they are looking for a bachelor that is very attractive and successful and a seemingly amazing catch for all of the big-chested blondes to fight over, regardless of his personal views toward relationships and commitment.



While this is too small of a sample to be very confident, I would hazard a guess that it somehow comes from the evolutionary fact that the female of any species is the chooser. This is why the male of a species tends to be bigger or prettier than the female—the male tends to be what the female find attractive. If I remember the number correctly, women end the relationship over 70 percent of the time. The female is nature's chooser.

This has to be related to the cultural fact that men chase women. Once the show is over, the relationship will revert to the norm and the women will become the chooser again. If the woman makes the choice in the beginning, then she will be more likely to make the same choice in the future.

Of course, this is a statistical truth. Personal variation is typically larger than statistical attributes of a population. Knowing this doesn't mean you know what a specific man or woman would do in a similar situation.



Absolutely. If I may be so brazen, men (of which I am one) are largely looking for the best arm candy or the best-in-bed, etc. In other words, I think that most men--or at least the ones that are used to trading on their looks--are looking at matters very superficially.

Women, on the other hand, as a matter of nature, tend to look for a more complex mix of characteristics in their mate. This likely has something to do with wanting a good provider/father.

Of course, this comes across as a very stereotypical look at matters, but I think it's true. I remember some dating show where a guy would go out with three or four girls, eventually excluding all but one. In virtually every case, it was the woman who seemed most likely to have sex, demonstrated either through her very forward/provocative behavior...or because the other girls did not seem nearly so willing to put out.

It was shameful...yet oddly compelling. A man is looking for a woman to give him the milk without having to buy the cow (so to speak). I imagine that there are few men who wouldn't prefer a situation where they get all the pleasures of a relationship with none of the responsibilities. It's shameful. But as long as we'll watch, they'll keep right on doing it.

Thank goodness that there are still a few good men who act honorably. Unfortunately, they don't appear to be on "The Bachelor."



In front of the camera everyone behaves in different way than when cameras are absent. So i think it's false expectations what destroys these relationships.


The amount to which the contestants fall in love with the bachelor/ette with whom they spend 1-3 television moderated dates per week in exotic locales always amazes me.

I think that, for the bachelorette contestants (the men), the winner receives a beautiful, young, and more-or-less financially self-sufficient (if not rich) woman. That's 85% to 90% of what men are looking for.

For the women, they receive a beautiful, young, and more-or-less financially self-sufficient (if not rich) man. That's 50% to 70% of what women are looking for.