Thursday, May 1, 2014

How hot can Harvard students expect to be 25 years from now?

My twenty-five year [Harvard] 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. ...

For the first 100 people who had pictures from today and twenty-five years ago, I first covered up the current pictures and rated the attractiveness of the graduation picture on a scale of 1 to 10. I then covered up the graduation picture and rated the current picture from 1 to 10. Then I computed the correlation between attractiveness then and now. Here were the results:

Correlation for men: .34 Correlation for women: .41

These correlations are lower than I would have predicted before looking at the data, but way higher than I would have guessed after having looked casually at the pictures.
--Steve Levitt, Freakonomics blog, on regression to the beauty mean