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. 21

    I know that nobody here is a research statistician in the given subject, but how can the stat of 40% of wives outearning husbands and the stat of women earning ___ cents for every dollar a man earns coexist in reality?
    Anyone know what the demographics of these couples are?   I’m curious to know why so many men are earning less.     Are they not going to college and taking the right majors?   If so, why?     Is it a younger generation thing?
    I agree with Evan, the times are changing.     Gender roles have changed drastically from what they used to be.     What I find fascinating about it is that it is happening so slowly, in such a subtle way, that even though the changes are extreme they seem to be going unnoticed.
    As an example, I recently saw the movie “The Hunger Games”.     In the movie, the girl in the teenage couple is the heroine in the “survival of the fittest” plot…….a place almost always reserved for men.     She rescues her passive love interest and it is her “macho” hunting skills that keep them alive.         Yet, not a word from hungry to publish journalists/commentators about what would have an enervating gender bender not that long ago.

  2. 22

    JB #16
    I’d have to say that the most common profession of the men I’ve looked at online would be “IT professional”. I certainly wouldn’t reject someone on that basis. (Next after that would probably be “Sales/Marketing”). Maybe it’s such a common profession, though, that you’d have to make sure that your profile stood out in other ways, through your interests and hobbies. I can’t speak for everyone, but I wouldn’t consider 75-100k “low-income” either!

  3. 23


    Not all of us women who date online do that, just so you know.   I could care less WHAT a guy does or WHAT he makes, so long as he is WORKING.   My guy makes twice what I do, but what I make is a pittance.   What I care about is his character, will he be there to help me if something bad happens to me, will he treat me with respect and dignity.

    I’m sorry you’ve experienced that, but again, not all of us do that.   It would be like my going online and going, “Well since my ex husband beat me, you’re all going to beat me too, right?”   Not fair and also judgmental.

  4. 24

    @ Ruby & Heather – I didn’t mean it to come across as me saying “all women” as it kind of looks like I did. Obviously I meant some or a percentage. I’ve met some very nice cool women online in the last few years that could care less and liked me for me.
    But we as men know when a woman online is trying to “qualify” us moneterily/job title wise because it’s so blatant when you never hear from right after THAT return email.

    That being said I recently met a woman who had just come out of a 23 yr marriage where she now makes I’m guessing close to 250K and she told me her ex husband was a lazy auto mechanic who stopped working as she climbed up the corporate ladder. She told me she paid him 200K in the divorce to “go away”. Yep kids this was all in the “meet & greet” among other TMI tidbits. She had no problem at least meeting me though and although we really didn’t “hit it off” I’ll never know how she really felt about my job even though we still email each other on occasion.

    OFF topic: I know everyone is busy but I’d love some more opinions on top of Karl’s on my recent update in this thread that had died out. Thanks 🙂

  5. 25

    Some people are way too concerned with what the other person does for a living.   Unless they’re like the example of the guy living at home with no job, I don’t see how you can demean someone for working at a living, no matter what it is, if they’re managing to support themselves.   Working at McDonalds doesn’t  make someone  a bad person, and if you want to be with someone who fits a specific job description, you’re just digging for a different kind of gold, whether it’s status or something else.

  6. 26
    Karl R

    Steve asked: (#21)
    “how can the stat of 40% of wives outearning husbands and the stat of women earning ___ cents for every dollar a man earns coexist in reality?”

    I don’t have enough data to give you a full answer, but to give you a simple (but accurate) answer, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.

    Both statistics indicate men tend to  earn more than women (so they’re consistent that way). Other than that, you can’t draw too many correlations between them. Neither comparison includes the total population. They’re looking at different (but somewhat overlapping)  subsections of the American population, so they’re  inevitably  providing different answers.

    Heather said: (#18)
    “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.”

    I agree with your decision to dump that man. I think your current rule, however, rules out some financially responsible men.

    I had a coworker who let his mother move in with him when she was unemployed. She paid some nominal rent until she got back on her feet.

    I realize that it  may have been  awkward for his mother to be around during dating, but it’s not a sign of fiscal irresponsibility.

    Several  years ago I was working as an independent contractor. I was making $55K per year (more or less), but I wasn’t working full-time. The work was kind of feast-or-famine. One month I billed 285 hours; another month I billed 25 hours. When I switched to a full-time, permanent position, I initially had to take a pay cut.

    There are a lot of people who aren’t comfortable with the inherent instability of an independent contractor’s income. But there are a lot of independent contractors who make a very good living (far better than I did)  with that kind of work.

    Inflexible rules can cut out people whom you would find perfectly acceptable. That’s why I’m very careful about using them.

  7. 27

    21. Men and women often cluster (due to a combination of choice, social expectation and ability distribution) in different jobs and different sectors of the economy that experience shifts in demand at different times. But when men and women have the same position, men usually get paid more, even in fields dominated by women like nursing and k-12 education. There’s also a phenomenon called the “glass elevator” that reveals when men prove themselves competent in stereotypically feminine positions, they’re disproportionately promoted into more “gender appropriate” positions of authority over a primarily female staff. Additionally, 2 million of those women who earn more do so because their husbands have no job at all, usually not by choice.
    These marriages are usually made up of two people, neither of whom completed college. Pink collar occupations pay a pittance (in no small part because the workforce wasn’t expected to be breadwinners/heads of household by employers), but they are more plentiful and stable than many blue collar professions at the moment. Part of the reason that more women are going to college is that the options for non-college educated women are dismal and always have been, while for non-college educated men, it’s just begun to become the case in the past few decades (with a last hurrah during the tech boom, when the skills needed were so esoteric and new that there were fewer college majors available than there were jobs, so hobbyists/prodigies/autodidacts/ex-military guys were hired in droves, college degree not required) The wave of America’s future is a bifurcated job market with low wages for some, exceedingly high salaries for others, and not much in between. Traditionally, many of those low wage positions, when occupied by adults, have had a predominantly female workforce. The influx of blue collar male adults into these positions may change how they’re compensated and perceived. In the process, some marginally employable women may become displaced entirely. Because of what once was, people in general are definitely not going to be happy, and they will mourn the loss of the middle class by squabbling amongst themselves for the scraps that are left.

  8. 28

    The problem I often see is if a man is with a woman who earns  more than him he still wants to be in the driver’s seat and “be the man”, i.e. make the majority of household decisions, including money and spending decisions, and this is where the trouble starts. Because if I’m earning the bulk of the income, I’m going to be less inclined to let you take the lead on how household dollars are spent.

    For the most part I think women are adjusting to the way things are in the world, but in my experience its men who still expect a woman to be the same way she  may have  been in 1950. I believe this is why a lot of women will remain single, and it’s really unfortunate, because so many men aren’t willing to change what they want in a wife while women are changing but still want to be in partnership with men. There will most likely be a large wave of women who won’t marry until society  hashes all of this out.

    1. 28.1

      Actually im A man and ive seen the exact thing in women.They still expect a man to be the protector and the Provider and everything else related to traditional masculinity even though they rejet the idea of being an house wife.Many women dont want to work more than 4 Days A week,dont cook ,dont clean,goes out but still want A men to pay the bills and  provide while THEY spend

  9. 29

    @ Karl,

    I do hear what you’re saying.   However, I’ve met way too many guys online who say, “Oh, yes I work.   Then I come to find out they “consult” on different things which means they might work maybe every now and again, installing car stereos.   That’s just been what I’ve experienced online and so that’s why I had to develop that rule.   It might have kept out some good guys, but it’s kept out a TON of problematic guys too.  

    Same thing with living with parents.   Oh sure, sometimes it has to happen like if there’s a serious illness.   But when a guy is living at home with Mom, not working, and driving Mom’s car, oh I have a problem.

    It’s sad that I’ve had to go that route, but I do have to have some boundaries, and the living with parents, and full time work, are two of them.   It’s saved me a ton of heartache.

  10. 30
    Karl R

    Heather said: (#29)
    “That’s just been what I’ve experienced online and so that’s why I had to develop that rule.   It might have kept out some good guys, but it’s kept out a TON of problematic guys too.”

    And that means those good guys are being penalized for being scrupulously honest.

    Almost everybody (women and men) does the same thing you do. They use the filters to screen out a lot of problematic people … and a few good people too.

    If a woman joins, and she has a build like Christina Hendricks, she could honestly list her build as “curvy”. She probably doesn’t even realize that most of the women who self-describe themselves as “curvy” are counting the spare tire around their midsection as one of their curves. Therefore, most men filter out all women who are curvy. This woman gets less attention than she would in real life … unless she lies about her build.

    Since the men are filtering her out, they never even see her photos. But the woman could change the situation and get a lot more attention if she lies about her build … and the cycle continues.

    I suspect that the majority of people have some quality which appears undesirable on a profile, but which would seem inconsequential if you met them in person.

    Heather said: (#29)
    “It’s sad that I’ve had to go that route,”  […] “It’s saved me a ton of heartache.”

    Are you sure about that?

    What is  your goal on Is it your goal to avoid dating any  problematic men? If so, just stop dating. You’ll avoid all problematic men.

    My goal was to find one good woman. I succeeded. I recognized that the problematic people outnumber the good people. I was going to encounter a lot of problem  women for every good woman I encountered.

    Unusual living situations or unusual employment, those are yellow flags. They bear further investigation, but they’re not automatic disqualifications. If I eliminated every yellow flag, I would have disqualified my fiancée from the start. I would probably disqualify every woman on the planet.

    I’m pretty sure that we all have yellow flags. I raise several yellow flags.   I don’t see why other people would be that much different.

    And if that’s the case, ruling out yellow flags turns dating into a neverending process. I don’t see how dating becomes less painful if you do more of it  and see less  results.

  11. 31

    I think it has more to do with your partner’s ego. If someone’s ego is in check, they should be able to respect whatever your income is or isn’t. My recent gf believed that she earns much more than I do. Here’s the thing, she made some very negative ASSumptions about me on the issue of money because she focused on ONE aspect of my finances. There’s some unfinished business lingering for a little while longer but it is under control. But the minute we talked about it, she started putting me down, I didn’t even bother to defend myself. She never asked how much I earn. I never asked her how much she earns because I truly don’t care. What she doesn’t know is that I am saving everything I bring in. My company is outstanding. She has no idea how much because she blew a gasket, with her erroneous assumptions and used the opportunity to judge me as less than her. It was so disheartening, watching her flip a switch and seeing how she became so cruel to me, seeing how she is about money was so horrifying that I let her go. I saw how materialistic and greedy she is. I think she wanted a trophy, not a loving mate. Here is what I do know – the only thing I want for/from my mate is that they are happy and fulfilled in what they do. I don’t care how much they earn.

  12. 32

    Everyone, please spare me the “male ego” bullshit about income disparity in a couple. I’ve dated online, on and off, for the last 7 years, in NYC. I can tell you that the majority of single women in their 30s list their partner’s income as being ‘very important’, etc. I make in the mid-50’s and have a stable job; I’ve found that women who made the same or less than me found my income a problem when they considered dating longer term.  

    I’m talking about women who liked my company, initiated sex with me and introduced me to friends and family. The breaking point came when we talked about my income and my career prospects.  
    Women typically want a man who is: taller than they are, older than they are and richer than they are. It’s called hypergamy and feminism will not wish it away. My female peers, professional women in their mid-30’s, are vocal in their desire that their husbands start to make enough money so that they can quit their jobs and start families.   These are liberal Manhattan career women who mated with men who are their exact equals in education, career and income. And yet they expressed (frequent) dissatisfaction that their men weren’t shouldering the financial burden for both of them. It’s the WOMEN’S egos that are being bruised by equality, not the men’s. Get it?

  13. 33

    Jeffrey, the article to which you linked does not actually support your points, but it does explain why some women are unwilling to enter a LTR with men who earn less or nothing at all.

    This article points out that, even when some men make no income, 1) they insist upon being treated as though they had a profession (the examples of artists, actors, and composers who  neither bring  in income nor actually produce anything), and 2) they  do not pick up  their fair share of household duties such as cleaning and cooking and childcare, even if their wives have been working all day. Obviously, not every  unemployed man would behave as these men do, but apparently enough do so that women are wary.

    You see, if a woman chooses to stay at home in a marriage,  it is expected of her – and she usually  delivers – that she’ll shoulder the burden of household duties and childcare, and that the children will take the father’s name.  Hence, it is actually a partnership.   But when a man stays home while the wife works,  is he subject to the same expectations as a stay-at-home wife; and if so, does he deliver?   Your article seems to indicate no.

    Thus, it should be perfectly obvious to you  why women care about whether a man works and brings in income.    It is not about feminism or anti-feminism; in fact, it’s not about gender  at all. It’s about fairness:  a human concept that we all recognize from the earliest years.   No one – male or female – desires to enter into a relationship in which s/he makes all or most of the money and still has to come home and do all the household and childcare work, while the partner does nothing. Again, not all stay-at-home husbands would freeload like this.   But because societal expectations haven’t evolved sufficiently to ensure these balances, every couple needs to discuss this before they enter a LTR, rather than avoiding the topic.

  14. 34

    “Betsy recalls the first and last time her husband [made dinner]. “Tom made dinner one night,” she says. “I came to the table and there was spaghetti, in the pot, right on the table. No salad, no bread, no napkin folded at your place. Why didn’t he know about the rest of it? He does know about the rest of it. He’s been eating all his life!”

    Wow, I wouldn’t want to make my wife dinner either if she was going to act like a spoiled, ungrateful brat.   I make more money than my boyfriend and I worry about resenting him in the long run.   But after reading the Alpha Women, Beta Men article I can see that the resentment comes from women who either 1) don’t discuss the issue or 2) don’t appreciate what their man brings to the table (literally).

  15. 35

    Meghan: the quote you included is more a function of Betsy being difficult to please, rather than any fault of Tom’s–if it’s not done HER way, it’s not done right.   Most guys wouldn’t care if  they were served  just spaghetti, no salad, no bread, no napkin.

  16. 36

    This is all just a further illustration of female hypergamy run amok.
    If a guy is financially stable(regardless of what his job is – and whether he even works or not), what is the issue?
    Even if someone is intent on naively attributing career or education to character traits, is it really worth indulging a *lazy* untested assumption in individual cases?
    It is far more reliable to assess prospective mates on a case by case basis, where independent indications of relative  compatibility can be reasonably assessed.
    It occurs that females who are hasty to disqualify a man based on job/education qualifiers, are  merely rationalizing their hypergamous tendencies.
    It’s OK to ‘want what you want’, but at least be honest on where the onus lies with female dissatisfaction(ie. in this  case – female hypergamy).  

  17. 37

    Joe: that’s basically what I was saying.   If you’re gonna ask a man to do something that he’s not used to doing (I’m assuming that he hadn’t cooked that often), appreciate the fact that he did it, not if he did it right.

    1. 37.1

      This is insane. No, as an adult you don’t get a trophy for participating. You have to do things the right way, otherwise it’s just a waste of time and resources. If my husband plopped down a pot of spaghetti as “dinner” i would be pissed too. There’s this thing called Internet where you can lookup recipes and watch videos if that’s something you’ve never done before (which, by the way, what kind of a grown up has never cooked before?).

  18. 38

    By “right” I mean to your satisfaction.   We women do have pretty high standards!

  19. 39

    My personal opinion, for what it’s worth, is that how much you each make is far less important than that you have the same attitudes towards money. If one person is cheap and the other generous, or if one loves to spend and the other likes to budget, they probably won’t get along, regardless of their respective incomes.
    In my most financially harmonious relationship, my boyfriend earned significantly more than me but we were both generous with each other and not overly materialistic so this aspect of our relationship was extremely harmonious, and I suspect it would have been the same if the roles were reversed.
    Similarly, I was once in a relationship where my man earned a lot more than me, but he loved to spend money, sometimes before he even had it, and I like to budget and be methodical about money so there was always tension about finances.

  20. 40

    I think what each one makes is not as important as how each one spends wife makes almost four times what I make because I’m still doing my residency in surgery but I still try to take up responsibilities as much as I can and I feel like she very much appreciates that.we do have problems sometimes because I like to save from whatever I make which is almost impossible now so I just gave up on saying and spend whatever I make now with her but I must confess she really helps me in times of difficulties.the secret is be genorous to her and if she loves you she would appreciate you

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