Money Mayhem: You Can Scientifically Predict Celebrity Divorce

Alden Wicker

LearnVest always seeks to educate and inform, but every once in a while, a financial matter hits the headlines and makes us go, “Huh.” Sometimes it even provides us a lens to learn about ourselves. In that spirit, from bad money decisions to financial lessons worth millions, consider our Money Mayhem your source of financial edu-tainment.

We’ve got a new way for you to scam your friends out of mon–errr … cleverly win a few bucks. Here’s how it works:

1. Start a friendly little betting pool amongst your People- and US Weekly-obsessed friends.

2. Make the subject how long certain celebrity marriages will last.

3. Secretly use the Sundem/Tierney Unified Celebrity Theory to predict the winners.

4. Use your winnings to buy a round for your thoroughly impressed (and maybe a little annoyed) friends.

Predicting Divorce, The New York Times Way

Yup, as you may have guessed, you can now use a scientific formula to predict celebrity divorce. The theorem, developed by New York Times science reporter John Tierney and statistician Garth Sundem five years ago, has been tested and proved on high-profile marriages like Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock, and Britney Spears and K-Fed (all divorced); and Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, and Matt Damon and Luciana Barroso (still going strong).

The formula did err at least once: It predicted Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes would divorce, but so far they are still together, with a cute little girl to boot. The formula doesn’t think they’ll last much longer, however.

The recent marriages it predicts will go the distance? Kate and Prince William, Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky, and Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z.

How It Works

You’re probably wondering if you can run the numbers on your friends, your twice-married dad, or even yourself. Well, unless you regularly garner mentions in The New York Times and National Enquirer, you probably can’t. Not with accuracy anyway. The original formula used factors such as:

  • Relative fame
  • Difference in age
  • Length of courtship
  • Marital history
  • How sexily the female is dressed in her first five Google hits

Now the theory has been simplified using more celebrity marriage data. The defining measure of fame has been changed from Google hits to the number of New York Times mentions divided by the number of National Enquirer mentions. Reviews of your Broadway show and thoughtful interviews? Great! Pictures of you stumbling out of a bar and news items on your cat fight with the DJ? Not so good.

We have to wonder if this formula could have predicted Heidi Klum’s divorce from Seal. We think yes, because of the problem we’ve discussed before of Heidi’s outsized success compared to her ex husband. Plus, when you Google Heidi you get a lot of pictures of her in a bikini.

The Woman’s Fault?

In the newly refined equation, it’s the wife’s fame and sexuality that really matters. One reason cited by the authors is that women initiate 70% of breakups, so their image is more important. The second reason is that skimpy clothing predicts narcissism in women, which in turn is correlated with sexual infidelity. Finally, cheating by the woman is more likely to lead to divorce than cheating by the man.

Is this misogynistic? Nope, it’s purely scientific. That is, if you believe the two men who came up with the equation.

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Photo credit: Jay Tamboli/Flickr