Actually, I’ve never been comfortable with the term. Yes, we all used it when joking about a friend/family member “marrying up,” and often it was also meant to be a complement to the spouse they were lucky to snag.
Then there was always the downside, that belief on the part of (too many) men that women look to date guys who have good careers and earn hefty paychecks—in order words, Golddiggers who were only into a guy if he had money.
This stereotype has persisted over the years, and in fact, there are women who have fed it and given the rest of us a “bad name.” These women make no bones about it, they want a good earner/provider—they are the ones like the young women depicted in An officer and a gentleman,” setting their sights on flyers and the life a marriage to one would provide.
Not that it isn’t understandable and even smart for women to seek men who are financially secure and responsible. It is and most of us are fine with that criteria. In these relationships it’s not about marrying a guy because of his assets and earning potential—it’s about paying attention to the practical things when you meet someone and realize you are falling for him, for so many reasons. He might be handsome, sweet, funny, sincere, and loyal—but unemployed, lacking any direction, and happy to follow your lead and let you be the one who handle finances and other things in the relationship. For some women, this is acceptable because he meets their needs and this compromise would be worth what they get in return. For many of us, this could be a weight that we would resist as time went by and could be a deal breaker down the road.
A recent study turns this dynamic on its head, finding that it’s more likely now for WOMEN, not men, to have that college degree and better career opportunities, and therefore it is men who are now more likely to benefit from marriage than women.
This study, published in Demography, backs up what educated women living in Metropolitan areas have been saying for a while—it’s hard to find suitable men to date. OUCH
Essentially as women have become more educated, empowered, and successful, they are less likely to benefit from marriage. Yes, the standard of living has gone up in families with two-income earners—but it is men who benefit from this as they were once (primarily) the sole earners for their families.
The study’s data was taken from U.S. Census data in 1990 and 2000, and the 2009-2011 American Community Survey. People included ranged in age from 35-44, who were in nuclear families. What they found is that women’s annual personal income increased three times faster than men’s incomes from 1990-2011, even with the pay gap. Women were also earning college degrees 39% more, and men only 10% more, during that time period.
This progress by women has improved the standard of living for men more than it has for womens’ standard of living–defined here as equivalized income. Boiling this down, the study concludes that women used to have an advantage in the marriage because they could marry up, but now that is no longer the case. Women are earning more and contributing more—and are more likely to marry men who are less educated and who earn less.
Therefore women are on their way up, and depending on how you view all this—have new advantages but drawbacks as well. They have more independence and security in general, and can be equal partners in terms of their financial contributions in their relationships/families. Given traditional roles however, women are still more likely to be the primary parents—doing the lion’s share of parenting and household management.
So guys, the next time you fear she is more into your career/job/real estate then she is into you—consider that it may be you who has the most to gain from a relationship with this educated and successful career women—who’s also a good friend and loving partner.
Looks like we may have entered the age where women should be on the look-out for men who are searching for a sugar mommy.