The Economics of Sugar Daddying

Not long ago, Levitt wrote about a Craigslist posting in which a woman solicited advice in marrying a man who made more than $500,000 a year. That posting eventually made the international media rounds, from the Times to the BBC News to Scientific American. But journalists have yet to jump on the wealth of posts like the following, posted in the Craigslist New York personals:

You with the long flowing hair, the mountainous, bust, the nipped in waist and the sculpted legs! You’re friggin incredible!

You’re what all guys want and what all women want to be. And on top of that, you’re smart and witty … on second thought, I don’t really give a crap about that. I’m about the boobs, and the little waist and the legs and the hair.

Anyway, like I was saying, you’re hotter than hell. And they expect you do what! To work? At a job? YOU? That just ain’t right.

Here’s where I come in. Ya see, I’m an investment banker downtown.

Now don’t get your hopes up, hot stuff. I’ll be honest with you. Unlike you, I’m not much in the looks department. So I can’t give you that. In fact, I’m a troll. Think Danny De Vito with a nicer suit.

What I do have is an apartment nearby that I’m not using. And a buncha cash I’m not using. And a poker’s hand worth of platinum and gold credit cards I’m not using either. Maybe you’d like to use them instead of going to some boring, friggin’ office.

Now, I’m gonna be upfront. This generous offer isn’t simply so you can have the privilege of living in my place, spending my money and watching my credit card balances grow. No, I would expect that in exchange for these privileges you will gladly, willingly and enthusiastically fulfill my deepest desires, especially of a sexual nature.

Let’s call it an arrangement.

In order to qualify for this arrangement, I’ll need to see several clear photos of you, both face and body. And please don’t give me any excuses about the Craigslist size limit. If you don’t have the brains to figure out how to reduce the size of your photo, you’re disqualified. If I’m interested, I’ll get back to you, if I’m not, I won’t.

So let’s hear from you and see those pics. Otherwise, don’t give up your day job.

While his offer (the likes of which tend to pop up on Craigslist boards often, with an equal chance as the gold-digger’s post of being bogus) may seem at first glance like a generous arrangement, with a little analysis it too can be dismissed as “crappy.

First, there’s the issue of opportunity cost. A woman who takes his offer is presumably already employed. Quitting her job in order to become a kept woman would mean putting her career on hold or abandoning it. Given the poster’s self-description, it’s safe to assume he has no intention of marriage or longterm financial commitment. So she is sacrificing a potential long-term career of her own for what might be a short-term financial gain with little guarantee of longevity.

Then, of course, there’s the matter of satisfaction derived from the money itself. Just as a beautiful woman could be described as a “depreciating asset,” so could a rent-free apartment with an unlimited shopping budget. A platinum card may thrill for a few months, but, particularly given the required tradeoff of supplying sexual favors to a man who describes himself as “Danny De Vito with a nicer suit,” it’s also likely to offer diminishing returns.

Lastly, there’s the risk factor. Investment banking is indeed a gold standard for high incomes — but it’s been a hard year for the markets, with the possibility of a recession still looming. Major banks are taking hits, which could mean bad news for our poster’s future employment, or at least his bonus. There’s also the possibility (increasing or decreasing depending on his age) that, at some point during the arrangement, he could become unable to work — he could get hit by a cab, or suffer a heart attack, or even be fired (perhaps for inappropriate behavior towards female coworkers?). His self-described unattractive physical appearance (not to mention loathsome personality, as exhibited in his posting) will reduce the likelihood that he will secure another high-paying job.

All of which leads us back to the conclusion put forth by the initial poster: if you’re planning to gold-dig, stick to the “MARRIAGE ONLY” rule. Then, at least, you’ll be entitled to equitable division of the spoils.

bob roberts

Everyone is really over-thinking this situation. The posting is targeting a deep and growing market of beautiful women----STRIPPERS!!!


Think Danny Divito with a Black Amex Card is HOT!

Don't want to marry 'cause there are too many rich loser Dudes like this guy who are so easy to play;

Sex is what they do and who they are, and the meter is always runnin' Baby!

Won't need to quit their night-job, 'cause they come and go as you please anyway;

So the bad boy I-bankers need to make a date for Hustler, Scores, Solid Gold or whatever on a late Tuesday night, 'cause only the truly rich guys can party until the a.m. in the middle of the week!


One new wrinkle that can change this equation is quite simple. Girl moves in, girl has sex with rich guy. Girl gets... PREGNANT. No more blood tests and he-said, she-said for her. It's a simple swab and off to the DNA lab, and Mr. Rich is on the hook for 18 years of child support.




Don't you think the "woman" in question is a little bit naive? Reminds me of my ex! Except that, in my defence, I'm not that squat and stocky (and excellently talented as an actor)! Some kinda situation!
Danny, you're the goods! Go! use other people's money!

mickey mouse

Good try, but your "analysis" is unfortunately very weak. You make too many assumptions about the woman's utility function and preference orderings.

And its obvious that if a woman takes that add too seriously, she really doesn't have the brains to get a job and make her own money. Unfortunately, there are many women who qualify for the above.

the incentive scheme here is a little different.
- Men want (or have the evolutionary impulse) to do as many women as they can so that they can spread there genes
- Girls want a care taking man to look after the offspring as the time taken for child rearing is long and it is hard for most women to be financially independent for that long.

However, the ones who are more financially independent can be as promiscious as men.

Try to see it from the guy's perspective. From evolution he is doomed of mating a "hot" woman, but he has some good genes that allowed him the intellect to make his money. The transaction seems really logical actually. Though the guy should have been more tactful to get the woman in bed and then pump and dump.



While the bulk of your arguments make sense, the premise -- that the not-so-romantic guy who posted the ad wants a woman to quit her job -- does not. Most likely he just needs a woman to be available during his off hours, and since he's an I-banker, that's not for very long. Hot women who happen to have flourishing and/or fulfilling careers do not need to give them up to qualify.

Also, you assume that the ad posted wants a hot girl to marry. I doubt it -- more likely he just wants sexual escapades for a while, after which he will want to move onto a new girl. Happily, this works out if you believe that the thrill of exploiting his financial assets will gradually diminish until it becomes not worth the cost.

I might also point out that there's nothing wrong with transitory pleasures and benefits. A dinner at an expensive restaurant also yields transitory benefits, but if I could get a reservation at Per Se, I'd still go.

Finally, even in a bad market year, mid- and high-level I bankers make some pretty decent money. So long as his credit card doesn't get rejected, why would it matter to any potential respondent?

So if you (not you specifically, but in a general sense) are a hot girl who just wants six months of no-limit shopping and an apartment overlooking Central Park, this might be a viable offer.

I'm just sayin' ....



While it is possible that a respondent to such a post may already be employed, this offer would seem much more appropriate for someone in their early twenties and fresh out of college. At that age they would likely be peaking in terms of physical attractiveness (apparently a requirement in this scenario)and would also be less likely to be entrenched in a career. Perhaps the opportunity cost for the sort of person who would seriously consider this offer would be less than it is suggested in the analysis.

It should be noted that what this guy is actually attempting to do is purchase the services of a prostitute on a monthly, rather than hourly, basis.

Also, I was trying to figure out a way to get beautiful women that I've never met to email me compromising pictures of themselves with absolutely no personal obligation. Thanks for the tip!


This is nothing of the sort you describe -- the cost of this man's signal approaches zero.

It's much more likely he just wants some free porn.


Economics is economics, but there's just plain... um... what's it called... oh, yes, disgust.


The 5 things any man wants:

1. It's important to have a woman, who helps at home, who cooks from time to time, cleans up and has a job.
2. It's important to have a woman, who can make you laugh.
3. It's important to have a woman, whom you can trust and who doesn't lie to you.
4. It's important to have a woman, who is good in bed and who likes to be with you.
5. It's very, very important that these four women do not know each other.

Hey it Friday....


I think you might be overestimating the opportunity cost. She could simply take cash advances on those cards, shop discount to make up the difference, and invest the cash with (presumably) a different investment banker.


signal's got it right. Most of these are surely false.

Ally Kendall

It's a poor offer. Anyone who is only interested in "hot" looks is likely to be extremely tedious and uninteresting. Moreover if he were being honest, he would prefer the services of a professional. What he's actually trying to do is find someone with even lower self-esteem than a prostitute, so that he doesn't have to pay market scale.

It's generally a bad idea to enter into a business arrangement with someone you know in advance to be dishonest in their dealings.


Would a person who considered such an "opportunity" even weigh these things? Would a woman who could be trusted even read past the first paragraph?


Who says she has to give up her career, if she even has one? Isn't this what pre-nups were created for?

Princess Leia

There's a saying regarding gold-diggers: Those who marry for money earn every penny.

Reading stuff like this makes my views on marriage so conservative!


All of the postings so far reinforce the common-sense observation that the only real difference between a gold digger and a prostitute is the number of johns.


Jesus Lafsky. I can't believe you fell for this. This was one of the numerous posts that appeared on Craigslist after that as SATIRE. Sure, there are legitimate "sugar daddy" posts on there. This is not one of them. It is clearly not serious.


Aren't we taking this application of economic analysis to the "Gold Digger Industry" a little too seriously? I mean, this can't be what Keynes and Marx had in mind when they devoted their lives to coming up with this stuff.

At the end of the day there have always been, and will always be, women who are willing to basically sell themselves for an unlimited allowance, and the poor guys who spend their whole lives working for money only to have to buy companionship from these women.

Sorry to be a contradictory, but it really comes down to basic demand and supply. These I-bankers and other rich guys create a market for a commodity for which they are willing to pay highly and there will inevitably be willing suppliers that come into this market to meet their demand. May the best producer win!

Wes Johnson

Actually, I think you are missing the obvious. Its a ploy to get women to send pictures.

There is no Devito in a nicer suit man at all. Instead, there is a clever prevert who believes he has found a creative way to get strange women who consider themselves hot to send him pictures of themselves.

It makes sense, since its free to post the ad, a real Sugar Daddy type probably wouldn't be this upfront or so concerned about getting the pictures.