Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 45–56 | Cite as

An Examination of Men’s Wealth and Age Disparate Partnerships in South Africa: A Nationally Representative Cross-Sectional Survey

  • Gavin GeorgeEmail author
  • Brendan Maughan-Brown
  • Sean Beckett
  • Meredith Evans
Original Paper


Evidence indicates that age-disparate sexual partnerships increase a young woman’s risk of HIV acquisition. Studies suggest that age-disparate relationships are fuelled by socio-economic disparities, with economically disadvantaged young women in sexual relationships with comparatively wealthier older men. Limited data exists on the socio-economic status of men in age-disparate relationships relative to men in age-similar relationships. This study explores whether men in age-disparate and similar-aged partnerships differ on socio-economic indicators. A 2012 nationally representative cross-sectional survey of 10,034 men was analysed. The sample was restricted to sexually active men older than 24 years old (N = 1330). The survey included information on the men’s three most recent sexual partners and three measures of socio-economic status. Multiple regression models were used to compare the socio-economic status of men in age-similar partnerships to men in age-disparate partnerships. Just less than half (44.6%) of the men were involved in only age-similar partnerships. The multiple regression results indicate that household wealth, access to essential services and employment status were not significantly associated with an increased likelihood of men engaging in age-disparate partnerships. Additionally, the relationship between men’s wealth and age disparate partnering did not vary according to geographical context. Men engaging in age-disparate partnerships do not differ with regards to their socio-economic status from men in partnerships with women of a similar age. Whilst economic disparity may prevail between males and females within age-disparate relationships, this study reveals that the men in these relationships are not economically advantaged over men in age-similar relationships.


Age-disparate sex Sugar daddies Older men Intergenerational relationships Socio-economic status 



We would like to thank all the participants in the survey, as well as the study PIs for giving us access to these data.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The University of the Witwatersrand’s Human Research Ethics Committee and the Institutional Review Board of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health granted ethical approval for the study, including all consent procedures. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

All participants provided written informed consent. The University of the Witwatersrand provided direction on participation by children (participants under the age of 18 years). For participants aged 16 and 17 years, both the child’s own consent and consent of a parent or guardian were required.

Supplementary material

12119_2018_9561_MOESM1_ESM.docx (25 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gavin George
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brendan Maughan-Brown
    • 2
  • Sean Beckett
    • 1
  • Meredith Evans
    • 3
  1. 1.Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD)University of KwaZulu-NatalDurbanSouth Africa
  2. 2.Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), Department of EconomicsUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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