Austin has over 9,000 sugar daddies? Data say not so fast

Sugar Daddy
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SeekingArrangement, a site that facilitates the matching of attractive young "sugar babies" with richer "sugar daddies," recently released a study claiming that Austin, Texas, is the "sugar daddy capital" of North America.

"All of our women are absolutely gorgeous and looking for a special sugar daddy just like you," according to the company's Austin site. "The average sugar baby is a beautiful, ambitious college student, aspiring actress or model, or single mom."

Supposedly, there are 23 sugar daddies actively seeking sugar babies for every 1,000 adult males in Austin. The Big Crunch finds this figure suspiciously high—and frankly, we would be very surprised if it was accurate given the city's demographic realities.

There are about 400,000 adult males in the city, according to the latest Census data, so if SeekingArrangement's numbers are right, there are more than 9,000 sugar daddies living in Austin (a calculation the company confirmed).

Already, that number means that one in every 50 men you see is a sugar daddy, but it becomes even more outlandish if you consider the income necessary to maintain a sugar baby.

The claim is hard to believe, especially considering that Austin reportedly came in 10th place in the list of top sugar daddy cities in last year's report. At the time, there were only about eight sugar daddies per 1,000 men (sugar baby signup at the University of Texas at Austin has also boomed, according to past company data releases).

According to the study, the average sugar daddy spends more than $51,000 a year on his sugar babies and has a net worth of $5.2 million. Net worth doesn't necessarily tell us much, especially considering that for high net-worth households, 30 to 60 percent of assets tend to be tied up in homes. Most people are unlikely to hand those off to a sugar baby as monthly payments.

So it's income we really want, and the average sugar daddy makes about $254,000 a year, according to SeekingArrangement.

Distribution data shared by SeekingArrangement with the Big Crunch shows a much lower median income, but it's still more than double the median income in Austin. It begs the question of who could possibly be seeking all that sugar?

According to the distribution data, about 52 percent of active SeekingArrangement sugar daddies make over $150,000. Yet only 13 percent of households in Austin make that amount or more.

Even if we make the questionable assumption that all those households include a man who could pay for a sugar baby (some, of course, are controlled by women), that's an incredibly small pool for such a large number of sugar daddies. In fact, that's only about 47,000 people (assuming dependents can't afford sugar babies).

If Austin follows the national distribution and SeekingArrangement's numbers are right, that means that 10 percent of that small group of rich folks have decided to become sugar daddies. So if you walk down the street in Austin and see 10 rich guys, at least one is probably a sugar daddy.

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That seems implausibly high—and even the original one in 50 number seems unlikely to the Big Crunch—but SeekingArrangement stands by the data.

"It is surprising, but all we can really do is report what the data says," said spokeswoman Angela Bermudo. "It is the actual number, but you have to take into consideration what people put as their income and what people put as their net worth."

That is one way to explain the discrepancy between the number of high-income sugar daddies looking for love in Austin and the common-sense reaction that there couldn't possibly be so many. Only "diamond members" have their incomes verified, while others may have strong incentives to exaggerate their income on their profiles.

Austin residents could also benefit from lower sugar baby costs that widen the number of people who can afford to be sugar daddies. On average, users spend $4,252 a month on sugar baby arrangements, but Austin users pay an average of $3,127 a month. That is much less than the averages of more than $5,000 a month in places like New York and Los Angeles.

Not to fear, though. According to the Austin site, "there's no nice way to put this: some of the sugar babies in Austin, Texas, on other sugar daddy sites look a bit rough. Our sugar daddy site offers you nothing but the best of the best."

But even if we ignored income entirely and only looked at the total number of users, the idea that sugar daddies could make up 2 percent of Austin's male population is hard to swallow.

Two percent doesn't seem like a lot, but in population terms it is. That figure is more than the percentage of the population working as doctors, lawyers and primary and elementary school teachers combined. If you've ever met someone in one of those professions, you'd have any even greater chance of meeting a sugar daddy in Austin, if these numbers are right.

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There is no reason to think the high sugar daddy numbers are caused by users' creating multiple accounts, said Bermudo. But what about something more sinister? Ashley Madison was recently accused of using imaginary bot members to fill out its female membership.

"It's a dirty little secret in the industry," said Bermudo of Ashley Madison's alleged fake accounts. "But we've never participated—we've never done that, and we never will. We don't see the need to use fake profiles to trick people into signing up."

The company measures its success by the number of arrangements it facilitates between the nearly 1.2 million sugar daddies overall and 2.2 million female sugar babies on its rosters in the U.S., said Bermudo. An average Sugar Daddy makes three arrangements a year, according to the company's data.

The Big Crunch still doesn't believe that Austin is being overrun by 9,290 sugar daddies, but if you think otherwise (or have first-person experience), drop us a line.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story misstated the length of time users spend on their sugar daddy arrangements.