Using Data to Predict This Season's Winner of 'The Bachelor'
A simple Excel spreadsheet revealed more secrets about “The Bachelor” to me than Chris Harrison ever could.
Photo by Rick Rowell via Getty Images. All charts courtesy Sarah MacReading.
On the best of Monday nights, The Bachelor allows me to feel okay about the choices I've made in my own life as I watch women in ball gowns cry over an emotionally stunted man trying to make himself "vulnerable" by repeating the word as many times as possible. Together, we, the Bachelor viewers, chug Chardonnay to ease the tension.
On the worst of Monday nights, The Bachelor forces me to confront the full depth of my indolence. I question how I can possibly be so mesmerized by such sparkly garbage. Is it simply that I require absolute tastelessness to turn my brain entirely off? Or is society to blame for creating this patriarchal, G-rated Hunger Games, which pits a cast of almost entirely white, cisgender women against each other before a backdrop of an LA mansion soaked in champagne, gossip, and the continued normalization of America's wedding industrial complex? As I observe woman after woman cry mascara-streaked tears in the back of a limo, I wonder: Who is the real loser here? Then I sink further into my couch, cushioned by an insatiable desire to find out what could possibly go wrong during the next urban bikini skiing group date.
I'm certainly not the only one addicted to the schadenfreude that comes with watching The Bachelor; in fact, for this season, I joined a Fantasy League with some unabashed coworkers. A relative novice to reality TV, sports, and betting, I decided the best way to guess which contestant would most likely be this season's winner of both the show—and, ostensibly, Nick Viall's heart for at least a few weeks—was to take a look at the data from past seasons.
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have both long been criticized for racism in their casting of mostly white contestants—something most hope to see change with the recent casting of the first black Bachelorette. However, many are skeptical. The whiteness of the show is so notorious its been spoofed on SNL, talked about openly during the show by contestants themselves, and even resulted in a class action lawsuit for discrimination in 2012 (the case was dismissed). The trend of vastly unequal representation is presumably set by both casting directors and by the Bachelor or Bachelorette themselves as they move through the show, eliminating contestants one spooky date at a haunted former plantation at a time.
Just how white are the contestants on The Bachelor? And how do demographics differ between the winners and the losers?
The trends in hair color relate back to the issue of racism: When you look at the general population of contestants, the bias again extends beyond the casting alone. For example, while 39 percent of the general contestant population from the last nine seasons is blonde, the winners have been 67 percent blonde.
As far as using this data to predict this season's winner, I asked other members of VICE's unofficial Bachelor Fantasy League to weigh in.
When looking at the remaining contestants on this season of The Bachelor, Corinne—white, Southern, blonde, only one year off the average age of previous winning contestants—is demographically the archetypal winner. "By demographics alone, Corinne looks most like the winner; however, with Rachel being a person of color in the final four, it just goes to show that this whole season may be an anomaly," said Tyler McCauley, Director of Digital Marketing at VICELAND, who currently stands zero chance at winning on the Bachelor Fantasy League.
According to Dan Herrick, Director of Strategic Research at VICELAND and another unlikely winner of a Bachelor Fantasy League, this season may be harder to predict winners due to the unusual fashion in which women are being eliminated. "This season is interesting, since Nick has not been playing by the 'traditional rules,'" he said, explaining how Nick is eliminating women outside of rose ceremonies at twice the rate of recent seasons. "For example, through the first seven weeks Nick has eliminated eight contestants outside of rose ceremonies, compared to only four during the same weeks of season 19 and season 20."
When it comes to age, this season of The Bachelor continues to operate outside the norm. While the average age between the Bachelor and the winners is 5.3 years, Nick, at 36, is older than the typical Bachelor, at an average age of 31.5, and is the third oldest bachelor of all time. This may give more of his potential future brides a better chance, considering the average age on the show is ten years younger, at 26.2.
Thirty-three percent of the contestants on The Bachelor hail from the West and 31 percent from the South, which is disproportionate to the actual percentage of the US population breakdown by region. According to the US Census, approximately 23 percent of the population currently resides in the West, and 37 percent in the South. The winners are even more disproportionate, with 42 percent of the winners being from the South.
Apart from Corinne, of the other two frontrunners, Raven, 25, is brunette and hails from the South, while Vanessa, at 29, is closer to Nick in age, but calls Canada home. "As much as she may be a fan favorite, I wouldn't count on Vanessa since there has never been an international winner of The Bachelor," added McCauley, who, again, is definitely going to lose the $25 he bet.
Though the data set is not without its flaws (try finding first and last names and photos of women on season 6 through 8), with more than 530 contestants over a 15-year period, previous seasons offer a wealth of information to help identify trends among the rose winners and losers.
As someone with a name that ends in a long "e" sound, or a phonetic "ee," I always thought anecdotally that of the hundreds of women who have competed on the show, the majority share this common stressed vowel, which turned out to be not the case.
As far as my own prediction for who would be this season's winner, I put my money on Danielle M., the neonatal nurse who had at least three traits that statistically put the odds in her favor: She's five years younger than Nick, blonde-haired, and from the South.
Unfortunately, like anyone who believes that making yourself "vulnerable" in a house of boozed-up women on reality tv is the best way to find love, I was totally wrong.
Additional data collection help by Linda Yang, Leila Ettachfini, and Ellie Richardson. Additional data analysis by Senior Bachelor Correspondents Tyler McCauley and Dan Herrick. All charts courtesy of Sarah MacReading.