Who Pays for a Date? Daters Have Conflicted Feelings

August 14, 2013

The date is over and the check arrives; now who pays? Social convention says it’s the man but a new study co-authored by Rosanna Hertz, the Class of 1919 Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Sociology, suggests that women should be more ready to open their wallets if they’d like to get to a second date. 

Hertz and her colleagues, David Frederick of Chapman University and Janet Lever of California State University, Los Angeles, surveyed more than 17,000 people about their behaviors and attitudes regarding who does and who should pay for dates, and how couples actually go about splitting expenses.

Hertz and her colleagues found that 84 percent of men and 58 percent of women report that men still cover all the dating expenses. They also found that 64 percent of men prefer having their partner chip in, and close to half said they'd break up with a woman who never offered to pay; however, many men also said they felt guilty about accepting money from their date.

In eight out of 10 marriages today, the breadwinner's burden is shared. So one question the study sought to answer was whether that role is shared prior to marriage and, if so, how early in the dating process.

“Today’s women earn a paycheck even if men may still be earning larger ones. Men want to reduce the pressure they feel to be 'the breadwinner' if this dating relationship is to turn serious,” Hertz said. “It makes sense that men who want an egalitarian relationship want women to offer to pay. Paradoxically, attitudes that finances are the man’s responsibility are so ingrained that they are hard to shake even when men would like women to offer some financial contribution to the date.”

Hertz said she was surprised that even among the women who offered to pay (57 percent), many (39 percent) really wanted the men to say, “Gee, no thanks. I’m paying.” And other women (44 percent) were bothered that men expected them to pay. “Social norms are hard to change and this is an excellent example since dating is the first 'test' of how two people might contribute to a future relationship,” Hertz said.

Rosanna Hertz researches families in a changing economy and how social inequality at home and in the workplace shape the experiences of women and men. You can read coverage of this study on BostInno.com, Jezebel, and The Huffington Post.