Are Men Who Make Less Money Less Sexy?

Bill Diodato

Let's say you recently went out on a date with a guy you met online — a newly hired professor. In person, he's as smart and witty and warm as he was in his emails, and he's just as good-looking as he appeared in his photos (maybe even a little more so). The two of you have a fantastic time, and you make plans to hang out again soon … but then you go home, and you look again at the profile of him that you left up on your screen, and you notice something you hadn't seen before: He lists his income as $30,000 a year. Which is about 40 percent of what you make at your tech job.

Would that be a huge turn-off?

More generally speaking, do you want to meet a guy who makes more than you do? Would your interest wane if you found out a guy you were dating was making less? Would a little less make no difference to you, whereas a lot less would? Do you think it would be ideal to meet a guy who earns about the same as you do?

I ask after reading a recent Slate piece about so-called "breadwinner wives," also known as "top income wives": women who make more money than their husbands, or about 22 percent of married American women over 30 (up from a mere four percent in 1970.) The article also noted that in all but three of the 150 biggest cities in the United States, young women age 30 and under are making more money than young men. The Slate writer went on to say: "This is all happening despite widespread ambivalence. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 67 percent of Americans said that in order to be ready for marriage, a man should be able to support his family financially, while only 33 percent said the same for women. A 2007 Pew survey found that working mothers increasingly say they would rather not work full time."

Is that ambivalence, really? It seems to make sense to me. At this moment in time, I'm sure plenty of women would be perfectly happy to couple up with a guy who makes more than they do — because there is no vestigial gender-related stigma in that situation, and hey, who doesn't like a little more money? — even if they'd also be okay with meeting a financially stable guy who makes about the same. Whereas my guess is that most, if not all, men feel slightly uncomfortable about being with a lady who significantly outearns them, because that would contribute to some feeling of gender-related inadequacy.

I, for one, would like to meet a guy who makes more than I do, but I'm not sure that's a gender bias as it has to do with my earning potential, or lack thereof: Although I'm debt-free and financially stable and always have been, I don't make much money, and I'm pretty sure I never will.

Anyway, what do you think about all this?

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