The Importance of Salary in Modern Relationships May Surprise You


Two women on a date


April 21, 2024 at 8:42AM UTC
Besides serving as a convenient excuse to eat chocolate, Valentine’s Day also lends itself to contemplations on the state of modern romance. And at Fairygodboss, these kinds of contemplations tend to center around one thing: the presence, or lack thereof, of equality.
We know that economic equality is a major concern for working women today, with 43% of women reporting in their Fairygodboss job reviews that they don’t experience a level playing field at their workplaces. Yet, many women also report seeing measures taken to rectify these inequalities, with companies like Salesforce publishing their pay rates and others, like Amazon, banning salary history inquiries altogether.
Given this push for pay equality, we at Fairygodboss wondered if and how economic equality bleeds over into relationships these days. Do men and women feel comfortable dating someone with a markedly different income from them — and does this comfort level change if that income is significantly higher, or lower? When, exactly, do discussions of finances first arise for newly dating couples, and how important are qualities like professional ambition and income level in finding a partner?
To dig up some answers, Fairygodboss surveyed 400 adults and asked them to weigh in on how salary and financial considerations play into the romantic decisions of themselves and their partners. Respondents reflected a representative sample of the U.S. population in terms of age, income, and gender — and we found some interesting commonalities in perspective, despite those differences. Ultimately, respondents testified to the fact that equality definitely does matter when picking a romantic partner, while qualities like professional ambition and income level aren’t considered nearly as important.
Over 50% of both women and men said they would choose to be in a relationship with someone even if that person earned significantly less money than them. Of those who answered that they wouldn’t be in a relationship with someone who earned significantly less, the reasoning was mostly encouraging. About 50% of both genders explained that they wouldn’t be in such a relationship because they “believe in an equal partnership.”
Additionally, the subject of income tended to come up organically in respondents’ relationships (for approximately 60%), rather than as a specific issue of inquiry. Specifically, 29% of men and 25% of women said they never asked about their partners’ salaries because they viewed it as an “irrelevant” question. Less than 7% of both men and women listed their partner’s salary as very important to them, on a scale of 1 to 5, and salary and professional ambition ranked as last and next to last, respectively, in a list of important factors when choosing a romantic partner.
Despite the prevalence of today's "you are what you do professionally" messaging, it seems that career, and the amount of money you're compensated for it, rank quite low in matters of the heart for both genders. And that's something we can all clink champagne glasses to this holiday. 

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