Do Women Look Down on Men Who Earn Less Than They Do?

In The Future Women Will Rule the World

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. working wives now out-earn their husbands, and many believe they’ll soon make up a majority. Women hold more managerial and professional jobs, they earn more college degrees, and long-term economic shifts favor fields dominated by women.

The times, they are a-changin’.

In The Richer Sex: How The New Majority Of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family, Liza Mundy explores the profound ways the new economic order is transforming the dating scene, the marriage market and the balance of power within relationships.

The feminist site, Jezebel, says “the pervasive notion that men are afraid of high-powered women is kind of bullshit, and that research shows “men will be just as adaptive and realize what an advantage a high-earning partner can be” in the near future.   (Mundy) encourages women on first dates to “own up to your accomplishments, buy him a drink, and tell him what you really do.” Her book is based on recent research that shows that while lower-income women are marrying less often, ladies in the top earning percentile are getting wedded in droves – their marriage rates have increased by ten percentage points.”

Amen. Men really do like smart, strong, successful women. However, it’s not just the men that have to adapt to the new world order. Women do, too.

If you’re a high-earning woman and you out-earn most men, there are two primary reasons you may struggle with relationships:

1) Men don’t necessarily want to date the female version of themselves. The fact that you’re successful, busy, high-powered, etc., isn’t what’s most important to him in a relationship. So “owning up to your accomplishments and buying him a drink” is probably not the best strategy for such successful men. On the other hand…

2) You may not have any respect for men who make less than you.

And that’s a shame. Because if there’s one thing that men figured out long ago, it’s that if you’re a successful man, you don’t need to marry a woman for her money. You can marry her for love, kindness, support, laughter, attraction, values, children, respect. We respect you for all these other qualities. What you make is irrelevant if we make money.

So, if we’re going to embrace the notion of women being equal to (or greater than) men, you can’t just say it’s all on men to suck it up and not feel emasculated because you’re successful.

It’s your job to stop looking down on men who have lower-paying careers.

Once you embrace this vision of equality – and start valuing men for things other than their ability to provide for you (when you can already ably provide for yourself), perhaps there’ll be more successful relationships between higher-earning women and lower-earning men.

Read the article here and share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. 1

    Less money?   Sure.   But I’ve consistently fallen in love with significantly less money and it’s always been a problem.   They start out by being grateful and delighted that I have financial means and that slowly changes to feeling entitled to tell me how to spend my money and resentful.   And before you tell me that this is okay because women have traditionally done this to men, let me state that I don’t think it’s acceptable for a woman to behave in this way, either.    
    So, I’m all down for falling in love with someone who has less money, but the question then becomes how to make that relationship work long-term.   Based on other comments I’ve seen on this site, I know that others have experienced the same thing.

    1. 1.1

      My mom does that all the time. She complains about how much my dad makes, when all she does is sits around watching TV all day. She says it’s her money too because “we’re married.” So she thinks she’s entitle to half of what my dad earns… before he pays for utility and taxes.

      1. 1.1.1

        Does matter what her salary is…marriages means what’s hers is hers and what’s his is ours.

  2. 2

    Jake used to make a LOT more than me (more than twice as much).   Now he still makes more, but not nearly as much.   However, he has a lot more debt than I do (and I have a LOT – in student loans) so he really has about as much spending money as I do.   We haven’t merged our accounts since eloping, anyway, so really the only change is that we both need to be able to afford it to go out to eat.   And since my regular job is the source of his health insurance, I think I’m saving him so much money we’re on pretty equal footing.

  3. 3

    I by no means look down upon a man who makes less than me. I just always thought it would cause derision in the future if he did, so I would like for a man to make more than me in a relationship.  

  4. 4

    In the past five years I have noticed a lot of gold digger men on the dating sites and on actual dates.   They are not at all shy about asking balance sheet questions.   Some the guys are broke from the devastation of divorce but too many are just self centered losers hoping to take advantage of my desire for a relationship and looking for a cushy place to land.   Lots of the phony profiles are also men looking for vulnerable women to fleece.

    OF course there is a double standard by some women.     They insist on dating up the economic laddder and then complailn that   there are no good men to date!   However, some women who  insist on not dating blue collar guys are passing on the  plumbers and furnace guys who all make over $100,000…..very quietly  in their jeans and work boots!   You can’t judge a wallet by   its wardrobe.

    The paradigm is changing.     I suggest that all of my girl  friends look for a strong emotional bond and plan on working hard at what you do best.     Economically   be strong and independent  and make careful choices.     Look for a man who is emotionally generous…..not all rich men are!   And be careful about the con artists who are out here!         

  5. 5

    Most women are willing to date someone who makes less.   However, they frequently want “something” to replace the lack of money or earning power.   Namely, they want good looks and/or very attractive personality or maybe some kind of sacrifice from the man for the relationship.    High earning women and average men who make less are still going to struggle.

    1. 5.1

      I wouldn’t be with my man if he wasn’t such a good cook, to be honest, and if he wasn’t just the kindest, most considerate person ever. But yeah… I wouldn’t be with him if he wasn’t a good cook. Or if I had to cook on top of also working a career.

  6. 6

    VFL #4, you said a mouthful!! Amen to all of that. It’s a jungle out there. Honesty is the best policy, has a better rate of return than posing. Plus, it is liberating.

    In this day and age of job insecurity, anyone could find themselves earning far less than they use to. Blessed are  those who are earning well.

    Societal norms and rules change over time. If a woman earns more and feels her man is less because he doesn’t earn more than she, is  that being fair? Is he contributing equally to the relationship? Play the ball where it lies. If his other qualities and  attributes make him special, hard to find, a good fit,  and he works just as hard at his career/job, why treat him like less. Only a gold-digger would put up with that kind of treatment, and there you go!

    Relationships are work and require vigilence. Find a partner to cherish and treasure, who you are confident cherishes and treasures you back. When that happens, neither is keeping score. When the partner does well, the relationship does well. Both are invested in each other and the relationship.

    If it were only that easy… I know. I hate to brag, but I’ve found the most wonderful man who treats me the way I need to be treated, loved, protected, provided for, etc. From the start I was fearless at being myself (good and bad). It has made all the difference in the world.

    Being a business owner I attracted the “takers” you mentioned and took a chance to make my boundaries clear to this new fella over the course of a few phone calls. He was amenable and respected my limits and my frankness. Little did I know at the time, but he was also a business owner and had experienced the very same things and completely understood from where I was coming.  

    It was astonishing to me  how we felt completely comfortable together like we’d known each other for years (or lifetimes). We are a perfect fit and that includes  our immediate and extended families). And guess what?!? He makes six times my income. Hahahaha. What a nice twist.

    Oh, one more thing… I met him online in a dating site.

    1. 6.1
      Bob C.

      You sprung the cheese at the end:   He makes 6 times what I make!

  7. 7

    Women hold more managerial positions than women have previously. They’re still incredibly outnumbered, and it’ll take decades to reach parity, let alone a numerical edge. Women go for college degrees in less remunerative subjects re: the private sector, and academia as it stands isn’t kind to primary caregivers at all when attempting to procure tenure. One of the fields alluded to must be health care, because STEM fields are where our “knowledge economy” is also headed, and they’re heavily male, from the bottom up. Where are successful men outnumbered? Not in business or law, that’s for sure. Among doctors, the most recent classes are half comprised of women. That’s it. Half. And that’s not considering the fact that these careers involve a heavy personal and monetary investment – they aren’t for the fickle. The successful men from the last 30 or so graduating classes where men dominated every tier are still in the field. These most recent graduates are a drop in the bucket, and it’s way too early to declare them vanguards of a new era.
    40 percent of working wives outearn their husbands because men are more likely to have seasonal employment, jobs with varying commissions, jobs that cause serious injury temporarily and/or permanently, and jobs in industrial/manufacturing (shrinking sectors) in lieu of the service sector, which is the other long term shift in the economy that favors women. Those women will never be rich, and they often struggle to carry a household alone, as many of those positions are permanent part time, near minimum wage, with high turnover and a policy of providing .18 cent pay raises after 5 years OTJ. The economic instability of low income males is the reason why so few low income women are married, and it affects both sides. A man is loath to move from his mother’s house into his girlfriend’s mother’s house and marry (and vice versa), so people just stay where they are and kids just happen.  
    Additionally, people usually look for “natural” social peers. A lawyer that makes six figures will not hang out in the same places as a six figure plumber, nor are they likely to have mutual friends in common. They’re exceedingly unlikely to have similar beliefs on gender roles. Neither is likely to be the other’s first pick. And this is all assuming that high earning women are looking for a partner that earns more first and foremost, as opposed to a man who is well educated in a society that rewards well educated men with money fairly often. Male lawyers don’t usually marry childcare workers, they marry teachers. Everyone’s still been to grad school. Now if a female lawyer would turn down a male teacher, then it’s all about money. But if she is indeed overlooking the 100,000 tradesman that everyone’s heard of by now, that she might be looking for something else.

  8. 8

    I had a very successful marriage and I earned almost double what my husband did most of my career. It never occurred to me or him that it was any kind of a hurdle. Of course when you both start with nothing and build it together, maybe it’s different.
    Most of the men (since my husband died) that I have dated earned less than me, it’s not important that they out earn me. It does become important though if they can never pay their way anywhere and as the saying goes “I don’t want to be a nurse or a purse.”   Even if you aren’t going to expensive places it gets annoying if he can’t afford to pay his own way even in moderately priced restaurants and activities.

  9. 9

    My situation is unique to most readers here. I don’t hold a degree but work a low level mgmt. job and moonlight waitressing 2 nights a week. It brings me a middle class income, I own my home, etc. However, I do need more balance and don’t want to continue working 60 hours a week forever.

    Enter my boyfriend. He’s a crisis counselor  making  30K  which is barely a living wage  in my city.  He hates thinking about money issues and his life is sometimes chaotic because of it; gets power cut off because of not wanting to deal with reading bills, pays  lots of  late fines. He  just filed taxes for the  first time in 7 years because I was so freaked out that  he hadn’t been!

    We are best friends, together everyday, have great chemistry, all  values are compatible, (besides the money part.)  I don’t mind outearning him at all but I worry that I will have to continue working grueling hours  if we have a life together so we can have savings, retirement, take a  vacation. His  car is on the fritz but he’s trying to save to get the repair done.  

    He’s 41, I’m 31 and we’re been together 8 months. We don’t want kids but how can I measure the decision to stay  since he won’t consider taking a  different job or working a 2nd one? Should I just assume money will be better with a joint income? We love each other  very much. I don’t look down on him but sometimes think he should  man up and do what he has to do to elimate the financial chaos.  


    1. 9.1

      He doesn’t sound terribly motivated, while you seem to be not only motivates, but very responsible.   Personally I see problems, particularly as he does not appear to be at all responsible financially. Please read what you wrote in paragraph 2.   However, if you do decide to marry, PLEASE maintain a joint account only for household expenses. Keep an account in your own name for the rest of your money. Take it from one who has made that mistake twice…   I think you should keep looking.   You are only 31 – no rush to settle down


  10. 10

    @Ames, financial incompatibility is a issue that needs to be figured out before you get married. And financial disclosure and honesty needs to be present in a long-term relationship.

    Combining incomes doesn’t mean the money will be better, esp. if there is lots of debt.

    I’m no expert, but the issue here is not that your boyfriend doesn’t make a lot of money. It’s how he handles money, and it sounds as if he doesn’t do it well. He doesn’t make a lot, and I don’t know where you live, but there are people that make it work on what he has, and yes, 2nd jobs are sometimes the way.

    A lot of people don’t realize that those greedy, lazy teachers frequently have 2nd and summer jobs doing things like working in Home Depot or Macy’s precisely for that reason.

    At any rate, the way your BF handles money could mean that owes a lot, and if you are married and for example, he owes thousands in back taxes, that becomes your burden when you married. I had an aunt who was financially devastated by a husband who owed hundreds of thousands to the IRS. When you file jointly with someone and there is a record of SOMEONE who can pay, they will go after that person. So in the case of my aunt, her savings accounts were cleaned out and her paycheck was garnished for YEARS after she and her husband divorced. It was a LOT of money, and she had saved her whole life and had great jobs and it took everything. She had no idea he owed so much (he has a pretty comfortable inheritance which might have been the source of the bill), but the point is, it has ruined her life.

    Anyone getting married needs to know what they are marrying as far as debt goes, b/c it can leave you ruined.

    I know someone else who married a guy who hadn’t filed taxes in many years, and just like my aunt, the bill came to her in the mail as well, but while it was a lot, she was able to pay it before interest accrued. It was a lot but not nearly what my aunt got hit with (much younger couple much shorter time of accrual). But she had a very nice salary and had been working for years, so coming up with thousands of dollars was not hard. It sucked but did not hurt her beyond the lie. (They are divorced now too). If your BF owes money and hides it from you, you’ll wind up like my aunt. If you find out now, you’ll wind up like my other acquaintance with hopefully a lump sum you can pay off.

    I have a couple of friends whose marriages have ended b/c of this issue, and a couple more who called off weddings b/c of it. But it wasn’t about someone making less money, but in some cases, the man made as much or more. It was really about how they handled money and bills, and in one case, the person had a lot of debt that he hadn’t been honest about, and that matters b/c it impacts your combined household budget.

    It is a major stressor and there is a difference between confronting the problem and finding a solution and just looking the other way, since it can and will become your burden when you married.

    It would not be hard for his after tax income plus his debt to mean that the amount of money you have left over to save or to enjoy could be substantially reduced. And just for the record, you could find someone who makes 10X as much who has the same problems. That’s why it is how someone treats their money rather than how much they have that matters.

    Since you love him, put in the work to help him fix it (and that means talking about how to put together plan to pay it off and once you are married, following a budget) b/c it could make for a rocky marriage otherwise.

    Now how the problem is fixed is personal…some people clean it up/pay it on their own, others combine incomes to do it . But it has to be discussed no matter it is fixed, and you have to figure out how money will be handled and spend in your marriage.

    Just do not assume 2x the income means 2x the money…it’s just not that straightforward/simple. And you’ll have to talk about what all of this means and what your financial goals are.

    @Ames, since you currently have 3 jobs and you BF has one, you’ll need to discuss for example whether he is willing to take a 2nd job so you can quit one of yours.

    That is the kind of stuff that will cause trouble if you don’t discuss it. If you work 60 hours to pay bills and he works 40, it is likely that it will upset you once you share a home.

    And you do not want anyone coming after your savings accounts or home.

  11. 11


    I wouldn’t have a joint account with him. It doesn’t sound like being financially secure is a priority to him and he’s 41. He should be giving you financial pointers, just from life experience, but he hasn’t filed taxes in 7 years. You say he won’t consider a different job or second one speaks to being extremely lackadaisical with his credit score by letting his power be cut off and paying late fines.

    If you can take the fact that you’ll be working “grueling hours” and won’t resent the fact he won’t get another job if you have a life together then stay in the relationship.  

  12. 12

    I think it will eventually become a problem for a woman if she outearns her significant other.   There will come a time when the woman will want to take a step back or take  an extended amount of time off from working and she  will find it hard to do so because she may be the breadwinner and if her  partner doesn’t  make enough for this to happen, resentment  may build.     A woman who wants children and wants to be a mom who spends more than evenings with her children may  not want to continue to be in  the corporate world, which is not sympathetic  to the needs of women  during their child-bearing and child-raising years.  

    I don’t look down on a man who earns less than a woman, sometimes the chosen profession  determines income.   It’s the man who  doesn’t want to work that I look down on and I’ve come across my fair share of men who don’t want to work.      A hard working  male teaching  who may earn significantly less than  a man in a different profession is hardly someone to look down on.         

    1. 12.1

      yeah how is 55k to 88k low and not living able off of?

  13. 13

    I’d much rather be with someone is happy and fulfilled in what they do, even if it doesn’t pay six figures, than with someone who has a high salary but is unhappy or stressed or works 80 hours a week or whatever.   As long as someone is RESPONSIBLE with what they do have, and aren’t going to depend on me for financial support (because I can’t afford it!) then it’s fine with me if they make less.   (Noting that it would be pretty hard for someone to be employed full-time and make much less than me!)

    1. 13.1

      As a man I agree. Great response Jules!

  14. 14
    Katherine Wakefield

    I never had a problem with my ex-boyfriend earning less than i did.   He had a problem with it though.   He ended up using it against me in various ways. I think for some men being the high bread winner is important. For some men its not important.   For me its the person not the pay packet!

  15. 15

    I think it truly depends on the woman.   Most women unfortunately do seem to look down upon men that make less.   Whether they admit it or not, they often will harbor a resentment that eventually comes out.    On the flip site, not everyone fits into one category.   But overall I would definitely say yes on this one.

  16. 16

    We’ve talked about this in other threads on here before. The fact is the amount of times I never hear back from a woman on Match  after the “what do you do?” email has definitely increased since the recession started. I’m in the 75-100K income range on Match. I’m not “Blue Collar” but I’m not “White Collar” or managment either as I’m an IT professional.

    Like I put in the other threads women are so hung up on the  job “title” of the guy so they can tell their friends “he’s a ________” that they don’t take other important things into consideration like how much he spends vs. how much he makes. Does he pay child support to his ex for the 3 kids he’ll be putting through college etc…? What’s his net worth? I have no child support and have a very well put together portfolio and no debt so I’m doing just fine thank you. Sorry if 70-75K a year isn’t enough for some ladies…lol

    On top of the fact that I have to compete with “my ex husband was a _______ and he made $_______ and we barely got by” so now I have to find a guy = to or better than that and I’ll wait because I don’t need a man for anything….yadda yadda yadda………….

  17. 17

    @ Ames #9, sorry but your BF sounds like pretty bad news to me. This might be normal behavior for early 20s, but 41? It’s not his low income that gets me, it’s the complete lack of responsibility. How is this man a crisis counselor when he sounds like a walking crisis himself? I tell my children (16 and 19) that I don’t care what they end up doing for a living, as long as it makes them happy and they are able to support themselves financially. This guy can’t support himself at all, apparently not just because he doesn’t make enough, but also because he has no idea where and how his own money gets spent, even though he’s the only person spending it. As someone about the same age as he is, I find it mind-boggling.

  18. 18

    I dated a guy who as it turns out, didn’t want to work, worked part time and lived with his mother (yeah, I sure picked a winner there), and yet he had the gall to ask me to chip in on tabs.   He had no rent to pay, car was almost paid off, no student loan debt, nada.    He claimed he was looking for work but I never in the 9 months that we dated, saw or heard anything about interviews, resumes, etc.  

    I dumped him and ever since, have made it a rule that a guy cannot live at home with Mom, and MUST work.   Full time, unless he is going to school for something.

    So depending on the situation, yes, I do look down on guys who make less than me, if they’re choosing to be lazy and not work.  

    1. 18.1
      Jayro Gomez

      Heather, Just one thing you cant think like that you will never find any man like that thinking like that. By the way I make way more less than my wife and she don’t appreciate shit then we have a problem enough of me just appreciate what you got and don’t discriminate girl we guys have enough problems already. Just saying okay so don’t get offended.

  19. 19
    Robin Cockrell

    I make 3 times more than my significant other.   He on the other hand works very hard.   Gets up at 3 am, works 12 and 14 hour shifts while I work from home.   I appreciate him for this and I find it very admirable, because actually he doesn’t have to work at all.   I do notice at times a bit of a power struggle and I do think his ego is reacting sometimes.   Many men are defined by their level of success.   I have a coach that helps me navigate through this.   I also openly share my feelings and fears with him.   I confess I do fear my success coming between us.   He fears the same I am sure.   So by talking about this openly, it helps us to keep a balance and it helps that he understands that I too have these fears.  

    1. 19.1

      I just got dumped by a 57 year old woman that out earns me by a lot and told me she skis and how can she go skiing with me cause I cant afford to to to lake Tahoe on a whim –   she also told me that she is doesn’t think she is relationship material –   also said that I am the nicest man she has ever met but sees mutiple people and has sex with them and gets tested all the time –   I was starting fall in love with her   but after sex she always sent me home –   never slept with me   – that hurts!

  20. 20

    I think

    some women do respect men less, who earn less than they do
    some women do not have a problem with men who earn less
    some men have problems with women who earn more than they do
    some men do not have problems with women who earn more than they do

    When I do the online dating I generally avoid women whose income bracket is more than 20K of mine.     It just makes things too awkward.

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