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Gen Z men feel pressure to provide: 7 in 10 think ‘the man should be the breadwinner’ in a family

19th February 2024

  • Nearly six in ten 18-24 year old men say a man could feel emasculated if their female partner earns more than them - 16% of women agree 

  • The reality is very different, with young women often paying more towards key expenses within their relationship, including cars (32%) and holidays (29%)

  • Half of 18-24 year olds have split up with a partner due to unfair financial arrangements

  • Four in five 18-24 year olds feel that being more transparent with their partner about money would improve their relationship

19 February 2024: Gen Z men are holding more traditional points of view about money than the generations that came before them, which is applying pressure to their relationships, according to new research from Starling Bank. 

More than seven in ten (71%) 18-24 year old men believe that the man should ‘be the primary breadwinner within a relationship’, the survey of 3,000 UK adults in cohabiting relationships reveals, compared to 14% of men aged 65+. Reflecting these pressures, nearly six in ten (58%) men aged 18-24 believe that a man in a heterosexual relationship may feel ‘emasculated’ if their partner were to earn more than them.

Young women are less likely to agree; a fifth in the same age group (20%) believe that the man should be the primary breadwinner, and only 16% agree that a man being out-earned by a female partner could be emasculating.

Young couples most likely to split costs

While young men may feel pressured to be the primary providers in relationships, the research indicates that couples aged 18-24 are more likely than any other age group to split expenses in their relationship equally (73% vs an overall average of 53%).

For many expenses, young women are the primary payers. Nearly a third (29%) of respondents aged 18-24 say that in their relationship, the woman pays for all or most of the cost of joint holidays, for example, compared to 28% for men. Furthermore, 35% of women pay all or most of the cost of the weekly food shop, compared to 26% of men. Young women were also found to be more likely to pay more towards costs related to pets, nursery fees, car payments, petrol and presents - listed in the below table.
Expenses people aged 18-25 say the women takes the lead on paying for in their relationship

Cost% of women who pay all or most of the cost% of men who pay all or most of the cost% of couples who split cost equally
Main weekly shop35%26%37%
Car payments32%29%27%
Birthday + Xmas presents for friends/family 32%22%44%
Pet care31%20%28%
Holidays / weekends away29%28%38%
Nursery / school fees27%21%20%

Reflecting generational differences, women aged 18-24 are around seven times more likely to pay for ‘all or most’ of the food and drinks bill when they go out with their partner (26%) than older females (3% of women aged 55-64 and 4% aged 65+). And they are more than three times as likely to pay for all or most of the cost of holidays than women aged 65+ (29% vs 8%).

The disconnect between younger couples

The divide in opinions on money and gender roles appears to be having an impact on young people’s relationships. Half of 18-24 year olds (50%) have split up with a partner because they had unfair financial arrangements that they were unable to resolve - far more than the wider average of 16% of UK adults within the survey.

More than half (54%) of 18-24 year olds avoid having conversations about important financial matters with their partners, rising to 69% of men in this age group (vs 21% of women). As such, four in five people in this age group (83%) feel that being more transparent with their partner about money would improve their relationship as a whole.

What could ease the pressure for young men?

The research highlights that couples who take a more equitable view of money tend to be happier. Couples of all ages who split things equally were found to be more likely to believe that finances within their relationship are fair (92%) compared to those who split things based on their income (80%). 

Furthermore, 42% of people in relationships believe that ‘couples who pay together, stay together’ -  a sentiment that couples are more likely to agree with as they age , with 22% of people aged 18-24 agreeing with it, rising steadily to 54% for those aged 65+.

Rachel Kerrone, family finance expert at Starling Bank said:It is clear that among young people, there is a disconnect between the pressures men feel to provide, and the reality of being able to do so at an age where they’re making their way and figuring things out in adult life.

“Couples that pay together, stay together, so we’d advise young people to have an honest chat about financial fairness, to ensure they are both happy with the situation and value of what each contributes, regardless of gender. A free joint account can be a great way of having more transparency around money with very little effort. Real time spending notifications and shared pots of savings goals are just some of the more useful features that can help.

Contact details

For media enquiries, please contact:

Good Relations on behalf of Starling Bank

+44 7984 683 212

Notes to editors

Research was conducted by Mortar Research among 3,078 UK adults in a cohabiting relationship and 256 UK adults in a cohabiting LGBTQ+ relationship. Research conducted between 26th January and 1st February 2024. 

About Starling Bank

Starling Bank is an award-winning, fully-licensed and regulated bank built to give people a fairer, smarter and more human alternative to the banks of the past. It offers personal, business, joint, euro and dollar current accounts alongside a children’s card. Starling also provides a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) proposition through its subsidiary Engine, using the proprietary technology platform that it uses to power its own bank. Headquartered in London, the bank has offices in Cardiff, Dublin, Manchester and Southampton.

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