The Modern Dilemma: Who Should Foot the Bill for Gen Z?


A recent rendezvous at a quaint Upper Manhattan bar brought forth a timeless query on gender norms over bowls of ramen and sips of gin cocktails: Who bears the financial responsibility for dates?

In the midst of this debate with my 27-year-old Hinge match, she argued that gender equality doesn’t necessarily translate to an equal financial burden on dates. Citing the wage gap, the time women invest in preparations, and higher costs for reproductive care, she contended that equitable contributions didn’t mean splitting the bill down the middle.

Despite ultimately opting for a split bill, our discussion mirrors a broader tension in contemporary dating. While emphasizing equity in various aspects of life, young people, especially those in heterosexual relationships, often find themselves adhering to the dating norms inherited from previous generations.

Drawing from recent research, cultural influences, and conversations with numerous young Americans, it appears that an age-old tradition persists: Men predominantly foot the bill on dates, with an accompanying expectation that they should.

The Resilient Tradition of Men Taking Charge

Dr. Shanhong Luo, a professor at Fayetteville State University, delves into the factors influencing attraction and relationship norms. A 2023 study published in Psychological Reports surveyed 552 heterosexual college students in Wilmington, N.C., querying their expectations and payment habits regarding dates.

The findings revealed that young men covered all or most expenses around 90% of the time, with women contributing merely 2% (splitting bills occurred approximately 8% of the time). Subsequent dates saw more instances of bill-splitting, but men still shouldered the majority of the expenses, while women contributed sparingly. Almost 80% of men anticipated paying on the first date, contrasting with just over half of women (55%) expecting men to foot the bill.

In the landscape of 2024, the age-old question persists: What constitutes proper dating etiquette? Who should be responsible for the check? Is splitting the bill ever deemed appropriate?

For insights into modern dating etiquette, turns to Jennifer Styers, a seasoned relationship expert with 25 years of experience. As the host of the popular podcast, “The Loveability Show with Jennifer Styers,” and the visionary behind the groundbreaking matchmaking app, Lovey, she is well-equipped to shed light on contemporary expectations in the ever-evolving world of dating.