Artificial Scarcity in ABC’s “The Bachelor”

ABC’s long-running hit television series The Bachelor (and sister show The Bachelorette) can show a few different principles of economics. One very basic economic principle on hand is artificial scarcity.

The premise of the show is to introduce one attractive, single man to thirty attractive and single women, who are all potential romantic partners for the bachelor. Then over the course of several weeks the producers of the show send the bachelor and his assembly of potential romantic partners on competitive “group dates” and intimate “one-on-ones”, where the women compete with each other for the Bachelor’s affection. This all culminates in a final episode where the Bachelor picks one of the women and proposes to her.

The scenario set up by the producers of the show is one of artificial scarcity. More men could easily be casted to be more bachelors (this is the premise of the equally popular spin-off show “Bachelor in Paradise”), but instead they choose to have the women outnumber the man thirty to one.

By artificially boosting the value of the one bachelor in this way, the creators of the show force much more fearsome competition among the women for the attention of the man. The amount of over-the-top effort each of the women is willing to put into improving their standing with the bachelor, and especially into sabotaging the standing of all of the other contestants, and the drama that follows is what makes the show so entertaining. It is the parameters of the show, restricting the number of potential romantic partners for all of the contestants that fabricates an excessively high demand for the bachelor’s attention, that makes this all possible.

This strategy of constraining the supply to increase its value is the same strategy employed by auto manufacturers, producing high end limited-run sports cars, and by shoe companies releasing top of the line limited production sneakers. Artificial scarcity can convince consumers to pay a higher premium for any good, and it’s an interesting manipulation of consumers’ decision making process.

About David Shireman

David is a third year economics major at the University of Puget Sound.

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