Women who make good salaries, and the men who don't love them

By Megan McArdle

The New York Times has another thumb-sucker about the dating problems of female professionals:

FOR Whitney Hess, a 25-year-old software designer in Manhattan, the tension that ultimately ended her recent relationships was all right there, in the digits on her pay stub.

The awkwardness started with nights out. She would want to try the latest downtown bistro, but her boyfriends, who worked in creative jobs that paid less than hers, preferred diners.

They would say, “Wow, you’re so sophisticated,” she recalled. A first look at her apartment, a smartly appointed studio in a full-service building in TriBeCa, would only reinforce the impression. “They wouldn’t want me to see their apartments,” she said, because they lived in cramped surroundings in distant quadrants of Brooklyn or the Bronx.

One of them, she said, finally just came out and said it. “Look,” Ms. Hess recalled him saying, “it makes me really uncomfortable that you make more money than me. I’m going to put that out on the table and try to get over it.”

But he never got over it, she said.

“The sad thing is that I really liked the guy,” she said. “If that hadn’t been an issue with him, we’d probably still be dating.”

Ms. Hess’s quandary is becoming more common for many young women. For the first time, women in their 20s who work full time in several American cities — New York, Chicago, Boston and Minneapolis — are earning higher wages than men in the same age range, according to a recent analysis of 2005 census data by Andrew Beveridge, a sociology professor at Queens College in New York.

For instance, the median income of women age 21 to 30 in New York who are employed full time was 17 percent higher than that of comparable men.

Professor Beveridge said the gap is largely driven by a gulf in education: 53 percent of women employed full time in their 20s were college graduates, compared with 38 percent of men. Women are also more likely to have graduate degrees. “They have more of everything,” Professor Beveridge said.



Apparently--you're not going to believe this, but I swear, it's true--there are men who don't like it when the women they date make more than them. What's more, there are women who really want to date men who make more than they do. No, really! There was a whole article about it in the New York Times!

It's hard to overstate the fundamental silliness of this story. This is not a "trend", except insofar as this whole "women in the workplace" idea you've been reading so much about is really starting to take off. The upper middle class white women upon whom the story focuses are not facing any shortage of solvent dates. I spent ten years dating in New York City, and have dated the income gamut from hedge-fund manager to aspiring artist with nine roommates. (Yes, I said nine. In a three-bedroom flat in one of the more distant parts of Brooklyn.) I am pleased to report that every year, the Ivy league and its equivalents disgorge just about as many men as women into New York City. Moreover, the men are, by several orders of magnitude, more likely to take lucrative jobs in finance and related industry, while the female art history majors languish on paltry nonprofit salaries.

Yes, if you make a decent salary, some of the men you meet will make less than you. But many more will not. And any lingering problems in this department can be readily overcome by letting go of the fairy princess fantasy where Prince Daddy provides everything worth having; or, alternatively, by not dating men who make less money than you do. If this is still not enough--if you want to date sensitive artistic types who still play the role of Big Earner--well, then, it should be a relatively simple matter to find a lower paying job.

There is a growing male/female education and income disparity. But it is occurring several rungs down the SES ladder from the precious princesses in the story, clipping off price tags and hiding shopping bags lest He realize that she shops at Prada. This problem is afflicting mostly poor women, particularly black and latino women, who have seen their earnings prospects improve dramatically relative to those of the men in their communities. For a paper as liberal as the New York Times to take their plight--which is real, and troubling--and turn it into an exposition on how hard it is to be a female corporate lawyer, is really pretty embarassing.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2007/09/women-who-make-good-salaries-and-the-men-who-don-apos-t-love-them/1982/