The Playmate Indicator

by on October 16, 2008 at 7:06 am in Economics | Permalink

The Environmental Security Hypothesis says that in tough times men will prefer women who are good at production, generally older, taller, heavier, less curvaceous women with less body fat.  In good times, they will prefer women who are good at reproduction, generally younger, shorter, lighter, more curvaceous women.  Pettijohn and and Jungeberg look at the characteristics of playboy playmates from 1960 to 2000 and find:

Consistent with Environmental Security Hypothesis predictions, when social and economic conditions were difficult, older, heavier, taller Playboy Playmates of the Year with larger waists, smaller eyes, larger waist-to-hip ratios, smaller bust-to-waist ratios, and smaller body mass index values were selected. These results suggest that environmental security may influence perceptions and preferences for women with certain body and facial features.

Econometricians who wish to investigate further may download the data here (yes really).  The 2008 Playmate of the year, Jayde Nicole. does not seem to fit the hypothesis however.

Someone from the Other Side October 16, 2008 at 7:57 am

I can foresee an Ig Noble…

Jonny Red October 16, 2008 at 8:53 am

I am going to run this hypothesis past my wife tonight and try to ask for permission to examine the source data via monthly subscription.

Jack October 16, 2008 at 9:17 am

And yet another good example of spurious regression for my class, once again coming from psychology!

Adam October 16, 2008 at 10:14 am

This analysis assumes that Playboy is a perfect mirror of men’s taste in women. No doubt it strives to be, but surely it’s not successful all of the time.

I would like to see some data on the popularity of the magazine itself during different economic conditions, how the subscription rates and newsstand sales rose and fell, and how Playboy’s competitor’s fared.

8 October 16, 2008 at 11:33 am

You can look forward to slim pickings, but I’m an optimist.

Ted Craig October 16, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Wow, this is weird. Looking at all the Playmates since the study, it correlates fairly well. The best example is Tiffany Fallon (’05) and Kara Monaco (’06). Fallon, who appeared in the magazine in Dec. ’04, is the oldest Playmate of the Year this decade at 31. Monaco, by contrast, was 22. It looks like the Playmate of the Year is a lagging economic indicator.

Robert Olson October 16, 2008 at 4:51 pm

So right now is the best chance I’m going to get with Jessica Alba?

Anonymous October 16, 2008 at 8:21 pm

I impatiently await research about younger, shorter, lighter, more curvaceous women who prefer older, heavier, balder men.

kenny October 17, 2008 at 9:55 am

as times get leaner, so do the girls.

dmitry October 17, 2008 at 2:50 pm

I wonder why in the data there is no variables on economy, how did they measure good times and what was the lag of changing the preferences, if last year we had a good one, and this year – bad, will most of us start to look for another wife? Also i have an alternative hypnosis, which might as well fit the data: there might be a fashion cycle among men and women, younger males usually find it hard to compete with more mature males for the type the last prefer, so the younger are more eager to invest in relations with somehow different types of females, and younger females knowing that try to look and behave different. That makes the community more stable by easing competition among generations. This hypothesis is not as easy to test because we need to find some combinations of women parameters which change in cycle. But i think it’s doable.

skewed October 18, 2008 at 1:30 pm

You think Playmates are being honest about their measurements?

skewed October 18, 2008 at 1:30 pm

You think Playmates are being honest about their measurements?

xtophr October 18, 2008 at 9:56 pm

“What about things like Victoria’s Secret?”

Victoria’s Secret models aren’t meant to be sexy to men, at least not directly. They are meant to represent what women think is sexy to men, which is likely to be a lagging indicator of what men actually think is sexy.

Victoria’s Secret couldn’t care less what men think: we represent just a tiny fraction of their sales.

chsw October 19, 2008 at 8:42 am

There may be one other effect on Playmates from an economic downturn – implant repossessions.

chsw

Shaun Krisher October 20, 2008 at 7:52 pm

do these ‘scientists’ expect to find accurate portrayals of women in Playboy? I’m a commercial photographer. I’ve never shot for playboy, but I have spent countless hours smoothing skin, adjusting hip/waist ratios, enlarging pupils, etc. I can tell you that the images you see printed in playboy have very little in common with the girls who originally stood in front of the lens.

they need better source material. nice try, guys.

mysterysangels October 23, 2008 at 2:10 am

It gives us more curvy women hope. Since I can’t work out countless hours during the day to have the “playmate” figure, because I am stuck doing research on these kind of studies to become a psychologist, the fact that the economy is going completely down the drain, I have something to look forward too…a future playmate figure!

Eric Fruits December 22, 2008 at 2:12 pm

I supplemented the data through 2007. Here are my simple OLS results.

Since this is in natural logarithms, BMI is a linear combination of height and weight, so I ran the variables separately rather than on BMI.

Bottom line: Height and weight have statistically significant relationship with GDP–higher growth rates are associated with taller, thinner models (lower BMI). Bust, waist, hips have no statistically significant relationship (neither do any of the measurement ratios, such as waist-to-hips).

Dependent Variable: LN(GDP)
Method: Least Squares
Sample: 1960 2007
Included observations: 48

C: -149.809 (4.647)
YEAR: 0.0733 (0.002)
LN(AGE): 0.008 (0.161)
LN(BUST): 0.712 (0.525)
LN(WAIST): -0.222 (0.469)
LN(HIPS): 0.455 (0.402)
LN(HEIGHT): 2.996 (0.833)
LN(WEIGHT): -0.790 (0.427)

R-squared 0.990
Adjusted R-squared 0.989

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Shoe August 2, 2010 at 10:06 am

They really had a good time when studied this subject, weren’t they? :)

Foamy January 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I think that men perception on women has passed long past this explanation you have here… There are so many ways of enhancing your beauty today that I have lost count… so…

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