Should Men Still Have to Pay for Dates?

By Rick Naurert PhD
October 11th, 2021
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.

The question of who should pay for dates during courtship — and how couples actually go about splitting expenses — is the topic of a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

“The motivation for the study was to understand why some gendered practices are more resistant to change than others; for example, the acceptance of women in the workplace versus holding onto traditional notions of chivalry,” said Chapman University’s David Frederick, a coauthor.

Convention holds that on a date, the man pays, whereas gender equality — seemingly more prevalent in today’s world — would suggest that couples should split entertainment expenses.

Using survery data from more than 17,000 individuals, researchers examined the extent to which people embrace or reject these competing notions after nearly 50 years of feminism.

Currently, most marriages in the U.S. (8 in 10) are based on sharing the breadwinner’s burden, so one question was whether that role is shared prior to marriage and, if so, how early in the dating process.

Study results suggest that the convention persists, with most men (84 percent) and women (58 percent) reporting that men pay for most expenses, even after dating for a while.

However, over half (57 percent) of women claim they offer to help pay, but many women (39 percent) confessed they hope men would reject their offers to pay, and 44 percent of women were bothered when men expected women to help pay.

Nevertheless, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of men believed that women should contribute to dating expenses, and many feel strongly about that: Nearly half of men (44 percent) said they would stop dating a woman who never pays.

A large majority of men (76 percent), however, reported feeling guilty accepting women’s money.

Practically, even if men are paying a larger proportion of expenses, 4 in 10 men and women agreed that dating expenses were at least partially shared within the first month, and roughly three-fourths (74 percent of men, 83 percent of women) reported some sharing of expenses by six months.

Researchers say the data shows that while times are changing, many conventional norms persist.

Whereas young men and women in their 20s were the most likely to endorse egalitarian practices, this is a mass culture phenomenon — the same basic patterns were seen regardless of daters’ ages, income, or education.

Although there is evidence of resistance to change, the data suggest that the deep-rooted courtship ritual around who pays is also changing along with the transformation of the relative material and social power of women and men.

Source: American Sociological Association

Man paying for dinner photo by shutterstock.

Dr. Rick Naurert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Naurert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.