Economics Student Uses Formula to Determine Odds of Landing a Mate


January 15, 2010
by Scholarships.com Staff
Peter Backus had been single for about three years when he decided not to exactly do something about it, but to find out why he had been so unlucky in love. The result was a paper called Why I Don't Have a Girlfriend: An Application of the Drake Equation to Love in the UK.

Peter Backus had been single for about three years when he decided not to exactly do something about it, but to find out why he had been so unlucky in love. The result was a paper called "Why I Don't Have a Girlfriend: An Application of the Drake Equation to Love in the UK."

Backus, a 30-year-old doctoral student in economics at Britain's University of Warwick, found that the reason was in the odds. Using the Drake Equation, typically applied to determine the odds of extraterrestrial life in the universe, he found that his odds of finding that woman of his dreams on any given night to be 1 in 285,00, or a 0.0000034 percent chance.

The equation assumed the following: only half of the women Backus would be interested in are single themselves, and Backus would only get along with 1 in 10 of those. (Backus only considered women in London.) Just 1 in 20 women were considered attractive by his standards, and the same number considered him attractive as well, something Backus joked in his paper was "depressingly low." Also included were the traits Backus looked for in a woman - a university education, an age between 24-34, and physical attractiveness. Based on those criteria and results, finding a girlfriend was fortunately about 100 times easier than finding an alien. (The Drake formula was originally used to determine that there could potentially be up to 10,000 civilizations in our galaxy.) Still, the odds weren't that good - only 26 women in London, where Backus lived, fit the profile of a woman Backus would date, and vice versa.

He ends his paper with this: "Make of this what you will. It might cheer you up, it might depress you. I guess it depends on what you thought your chances were before reading this." Single college students, don't panic yet. Despite the odds, Backus has found a girlfriend in London since, and one who meets all of his named criteria. Consider also that those numbers were specific to Backus. You may have a better chance wherever you are, your criteria may differ, or you may just be more attractive to the opposite sex than Backus. Or you may just consider this "data" for its entertainment value.

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