Would you rather: be the primary breadwinner in your relationship, or date someone with a higher income?
The stereotype suggests men prefer to be the providers, while women are more comfortable being financially supported. A 2017 Pew Research Center study found that, even today, Americans place a higher value on men’s ability to provide for their families.
Enter millennials: the generation expected to upend traditional gender roles, doing away with any concern for their partner’s relative earnings.
A recent Varo survey conducted by Propeller Insights, indicates that, yes—millennials’ views on gender roles have shifted. But whether this attitude shift stems from a genuine desire for gender equality, or is rooted in less noble reasoning, remains up for debate.
Of 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed, 41% of millennial men said they would marry someone who earns more than they do—so that their partner could pay off their debts.
On the one hand, millennial men’s apparent comfort with female breadwinners is reassuring. On the other, their willingness to pass their debts along to a partner may be indicative of a new, comparably troublesome trend.
Of millennial men surveyed, 57% said that wealth is a factor when choosing a partner, with 26% ranking it as “extremely important.”
Of course, with the unique money issues millennials face, perhaps factoring finances into one’s relationship isn’t entirely unreasonable. Massive student loan debt, soaring housing costs, and a shifting economy have put a financial pressure on the generation that, for many, affects their every decision. Why shouldn’t it affect their romantic decisions, too?
The economic gains realized by millennial women in recent decades may also be a factor in young men’s seeming liking to ‘sugar mamas.’ While the percentage of young men earning under $30,000 has nearly doubled in the past 40 years, the percentage of young women earning over $60,000 has grown from 2% to 13%—with young women’s educational gains also outpacing those of young men.
And this advancement shows: 40% of millennial women surveyed by Varo said they make more than their partners.
The rise of female breadwinners could be a sign of considerable social progress. Alternatively, it could indicate that millennials—specifically, millennial men—are placing greater weight on the financial element of relationships, perhaps to the detriment of romance.
Either way, as the economic gender divide continues to grow, we’re likely to see more and more women as breadwinners. And as women gain financial resources and empowerment, the effect on the economy can only be positive—for both genders.
Cortnay Cymrot is a contributing writer for Varo.