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Steve Chiotakis: Of course you want a big return on your investment. Although times are tough right now, there’s one area where the more you put in, the bigger the payoff. But it won’t be in dollars and cents. Instead, it turns out money can buy you love, or least a date. Sally Herships has more.
Sally Herships: Jan Landy is 58. He sells professional sound and lighting equipment in Las Vegas. He’s what you might call a connoisseur of online dating sites. He says he’s tried them all — from eHarmony to The Onion. His current favorite is MillionaireMatch.com. He says the site lets big earners like him certify their incomes. Landy sent in a copy of his tax return.
JAN LANDY: Because what happens is when you’re on MillionaireMatch, you actually think you’re going to meet a millionaire.
Herhips: And are you?
Landy: Well some people are millionaires, I happen to be a certified millionaire and that really helps in casting the net.
For the younger attractive women Landy was hoping to meet. But actually, Landy’s on to something, according to Ray Fisman. He’s a behavioral economist at Columbia Business School. He used to run a speed-dating service.
RAY FISMAN: Yes, if you want to put it very coarsely, and maybe you shouldn’t put this on air, the gold digger stereotype holds true.
Fisman has studied daters. He says if a man’s earning capacity goes up by about a quarter million it can have the same affect as the ultimate makeover. Turning him from extremely unattractive to extremely… well, hot. But sorry single ladies, the reverse isn’t true.
FISMAN: There’s basically no sum of money that will make an unattractive woman desirable on these sites.
Fisman says online looks are the main currency for women. But for men like Landy answering queries about your bank balance can help you get a date. But even though science says money is a surefire online aphrodisiac — there’s still one problem. How do you know if online daters are being honest? Landy says take his new girlfriend — She drives a Lexus.
LANDY: What’s the story on the car, is it leased? I have no idea. What am I going to do, go through her glove compartment and look at her registration? It ain’t gonna happen.
And Fisman says, even when sites seem to have nailed the right questions to ask it’s still hard to know if they’re successful at matching.
FISMAN: Very often we don’t observe these outcomes and in many cases the companies themselves do not observe these outcomes.
Who knows, Fisman says, what will happen with a relationship 40 years from now? Landy just canceled his membership on MillionaireMatch. He’s going to see how things go with his current girlfriend — the one with the nice car.
I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.
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