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Posts Tagged ‘Age’

The Ravages of Time

My twenty-five year college reunion is right around the corner.  In advance of the event, my classmates were asked to write a short summary of their post college life.  Next to each write-up was the picture from our graduating yearbook twenty-five years ago.  Many of the entries also include current pictures.

Flipping casually through the book, I noticed two things. First, it is amazing how old we all look.  Time really takes its toll, that’s for sure. Second, men were much more likely than women to submit pictures of what they look like now.

There was a third thing that also seemed to be true.  Many of the people who were really attractive twenty-five years ago don’t look so good now.  And even more interesting, there were a surprising number of people who were unattractive in college, but look great (relative to the rest of us geriatrics) now.  If I had been asked to guess, I would have estimated that the correlation between attractiveness twenty-five years ago and today was zero or even negative for women.  For men I would have guessed a small positive correlation.

I was so struck by the pattern that I decided to do a more systematic data analysis.

With Age Comes (Economic) Wisdom

A new study seems to confirm the adage that older means wiser, at least when it comes to making decisions about economic matters. From ScienceDaily:

To conduct their research, [Ye] Li and his colleagues recruited a group of 336 people — 173 younger (ages 18 to 29) and 163 older (ages 60 to 82) — and asked them a series of questions that measured economic decision making traits. They also administered a battery of standard fluid and crystallized intelligence tests.

These traits included temporal discounting (how much people discount future gains and losses), loss aversion (how much the valuation of losses outweigh gains of the same magnitude), financial literacy (understanding financial information and decisions) and debt literacy (understanding debt contracts and interest rates).

They found the older participants performed as well or better than the younger participants in all four decision-making measures. The older group exhibited greater patience in temporal discounting and better financial and debt literacy. The older participants were somewhat less loss averse, but the result did not reach standard levels of significance.

“The findings confirm our hypothesis that experience and acquired knowledge from a lifetime of decision making offset the declining ability to learn new information,” Li said.

(HT: R.E. Riker)


The demand for calories increases with age, both because one’s income rises and because one’s taste for good, caloric food has been developed over many years of good eating. I didn’t know what an Esterhazy cake was 40 years ago, but now I can’t resist one if it’s on the menu!

Swimmers' Dilemma

How do you create the best master’s men’s swim team when the rules say that team members’ ages must sum to at least 200 years?

You're Likely to Live!

You’re older than you’ve ever been, as the song goes, and now you’re even older. And for each eight years you age, you double your chances of dying. That’s the Gompertz Law of human mortality, which is actually sunnier than you think.

Enjoy Senior Discounts While They Last

My guess is that many senior discounts are anachronisms from times when seniors were scarce and generally poorer than the average American. I don’t expect senior discounts to disappear during the recession, when firms are competing especially hard for customers; but I wouldn’t be surprised to see many disappear in the next boom, as I believe they should.

A Pop Quiz

Who will buy the movie rights for this charming article about a 73-year-old college basketball player, and when, and for how much, and what will the eventual movie be titled? A piece of Freakonomics schwag goes to the person whose guess is most entertaining or, failing that, most accurate. Photo: Shawn Poynter for The New York Times

Only a University of Chicago Economist

A few weeks back, just as I finished up my stint as a journal editor, I asked a former University of Chicago economics professor to serve as an anonymous referee on a paper. Usually I wouldn’t ask someone in his eighties to be a referee, but the last time I used this fellow (when he was just a young turk . . .

The Birth of the Death Incentive?

Sixty-nine-year-old Bob Fanning may have hit upon a new senior citizen benefit that makes your home a more attractive sell the closer you are to dying, the Chicago Tribune reports. To stand out from other Wisconsin homes in the real estate glut, Fanning offers this incentive: The buyer of his home will be named the beneficiary to a 10-year, $500,000 . . .