Who Should Pay for Dates?

Who Should Pay for Dates?

Do you ever go on dates? Do your friends? If so, who pays? And how do both parties decide who should?

In “For Gen Z, an Age-Old Question: Who Pays for Dates?” Santul Nerkar writes that the idea that men should pay for dates still prevails for young people, who otherwise often break relationship norms:

During a recent dinner at a cozy bar in Upper Manhattan, I was confronted with an age-old question about gender norms. Over bowls of ramen and sips of gin cocktails, my date and I got into a debate: Who should pay for dates?

My date, a 27-year-old woman I matched with on Hinge, said gender equality didn’t mean men and women should pay the same when they went out. Women, she said, earn less than men in the workplace, spend more time getting ready for outings and pay more for reproductive care.

When the date ended, we split the bill. But our discussion was emblematic of a tension in modern dating. At work and on social media, where young people spend much of their personal time, they like to emphasize equity and equality. When it comes to romance and courtship, young people — specifically women and men in heterosexual relationships — seem to be following the same dating rules their parents and older generations grew up learning.

Contemporary research, popular culture and conversations I had with more than a dozen young Americans suggest that a longstanding norm still holds true: Men tend to foot the bill more than women do on dates. And there seems to be an expectation that they should.

The article continues:

Shanhong Luo, a professor at Fayetteville State University, studies the factors behind attraction between romantic partners, including the norms that govern relationships. In a paper published in 2023 in Psychological Reports, a peer-reviewed journal, Dr. Luo and a team of researchers surveyed 552 heterosexual college students in Wilmington, N.C., and asked them whether they expected men or women to pay for dates — and whether they, as a man or a woman, typically paid more.

The researchers found that young men paid for all or most of the dates around 90 percent of the time, while women paid only about 2 percent (they split around 8 percent of the time). On subsequent dates, splitting the check was more common, though men still paid a majority of the time while women rarely did. Nearly 80 percent of men expected that they would pay on the first date, while just over half of women (55 percent) expected men to pay.

Surprisingly, views on gender norms didn’t make much of a difference: On average, both men and women in the sample expected the man to pay, whether they had more traditional views of gender roles or more progressive ones.

“The findings strongly showed that the traditional pattern is still there,” Dr. Luo said.

Students, read the entire article and then tell us:

  • Do you or any of your friends ever go on romantic dates? If so, who generally pays — and why? If you feel comfortable sharing your own experiences, did the question of who would pick up the check feel awkward, stressful or confusing? Did it make the date less enjoyable?

  • Who do you think should pay for dates? Do you have a hard and fast rule, or does it depend on the date?

  • The article states that in L.G.B.T.Q. relationships, who pays for dates has less to do with gender norms and more to do with specific relationship dynamics. Is this a more helpful way to approach the issue?

  • Mr. Nerkar writes that members of Gen Z seem to follow the same dating rules their parents and older generations grew up learning, regardless of whether they have more traditional or progressive views of gender roles. Do you find this surprising? What do you think accounts for the “persistent tradition of men paying”?

  • Scott Bowen, a 24-year-old accountant in Charlotte, N.C., profiled in the article, said that, although he would like to see the status quo changed to be more of an even split, his parents made it clear to him when he was growing up that he should pay for dates. What kinds of messages, expectations and guidance have you received about dating norms? Have they been useful? Have you ever discussed the issue of paying for dates with friends, parents or romantic partners?

  • Mr. Nerkar went on 11 dates while working on the article, paying for five and splitting six. On one recent outing, his companion argued that men should foot the bill more often since women earn less than them in the workplace and spend more time getting ready for outings. How persuasive is the case that men should pay for dates?

  • Do you tend to follow relationship norms? Or do you often question or even break them? On the whole, do you think that relationship norms are a helpful way to navigate and negotiate our romantic lives? Or do they get in the way of forming meaningful and satisfying partnerships?