Sophie Watson, 08.05.2019

New Study: Who Should Pay on a First Date?

It's the etiquette question that raises hotly debated answers: when a man and a woman are on a first date, who foots the bill? Our latest data study put the question to 300,000 singles. We discovered that, when it comes to who should pay on a first date, men and women just can't seem to agree...

Who Should Pay on a First Date?

The question of who should pay for a first date has long been a topic for debate. Some etiquette experts will tell you that when a man and a woman meet for a first date, the man should always pay. Others say that it's 2019, and women are perfectly capable of covering the bill. And for some, the only option is going Dutch on date. So, what's the 'right' answer?

We decided to find out, so we asked 300,000 American singles one simple question: who should pay on a first date?

The random, anonymized answers revealed something very interesting: when it comes to first dates, the man should pay. That is, according to men. Women? They're not so sure.

Men Should Pay on a First Date - According to Men

A commonly raised piece of dating etiquette is that women want men to pay for the first date. However, a surprising revelation from the study is that it's actually the men who are more likely to think that men should pay.

As you can see in the chart above, nearly two-thirds of men (63%) think that the man should take care of the check on a first date. Women don't agree. Less than half of the women in the study (46%) think that paying for the date is the guy's responsibility.

Men and women also disagree on whether women should foot the bill instead. Just 2% of men want women to pay when they're on a first date. However, women themselves are more likely to want to pick up the tab, with 5% saying they're the ones who should pay for a date.

Going Dutch on a Date

So, given that men and women can't agree on who should pay on a date, is the answer to turn to Venmo and split the bill? Surprisingly, going Dutch on a date was not an overly popular pick (especially for men). Men do prefer going Dutch to having the woman pay - but even then, just 7% of American men think that splitting the bill is a good idea. 

Women are far more in favor of going Dutch on a date than men. 18% of women think that sharing the cost of a date down the middle is the correct approach. 

EliteSingles' in-house relationship psychologist Zoe Coetzee thinks that this disparity could be due to the fact that ''traditionally, it was seen as the man’s role to pay for a date. However, in today’s world, gender norms have evolved, and equality has become the standard to aspire to in work, social, political and also dating spheres''.

''Although this shift is taking place, men can still feel socially obligated or want to fulfil the role of the traditional gentleman by paying the bill themselves. On the flip side of the coin, today many women would rather prefer to split the check. These expectations and norms can change from person to person, making it a topic that a couple should negotiate when it comes up.''

Paying for a First Date in Your State

The way in which this negotiation shakes out may differ depending where in the USA you live. As well as looking into overall opinions on who should pay on a first date, our study also examined attitudes towards paying for a date on a state-by-state basis. And this approach revealed some interesting insights.

States Where Men Most Want to Pay for a Date

When it comes to men paying for the first date, some states are more passionate than others. Alabama and Wyoming's men are the most insistent overall that they should foot the bill: in both states more than 3/4 men (76%) want to pay on dates. In no state do women come even close to this kind of number. However, there are three states (Georgia, Louisiana, and Missouri) where more than 50% of women think that men should pay for dates.

Meanwhile. the part of the country where a man is least likely to say he should pay for a date is Washington DC. Only 51% of men in the district think they should foot the dating bill. The state where women are the least likely to want their men to get the check is Vermont. Just 28% of women in the state want the man to pay. However, 65% of Vermontian men want to be the one paying, meaning that Vermont is also the state with the biggest difference between what men and women want.

States Where Women Most Want to Pay for a Date

In all states, the percentage of people who think that the woman should pay on a date is lower. The state where women are most passionate about paying is Montana. 7% of women want to take care of the bill in MO. These women might want to start thinking about dating in Delaware: 5% of men in Delaware think that paying for a date night is women's work.

States Where You Should Try Going Dutch 

Finally, when it comes to splitting the bill, the biggest outliers are again Vermont and Delaware. 30% of Vermonter women and 10% of Delawarean men would choose to go Dutch on a date. Women are least likely to want to share the costs in Montana, where only 12% would go Dutch. For men it's South Dakota, where only 3% are in favor.

The Etiquette of Paying on a Date

Given all these differences, are there any etiquette rules that say for sure who should pay on a first date?  According to Zoe Coetzee, modern dating means taking a modern approach: ''as in most areas of dating and relationships, communication is key! Paying the bill doesn’t need to be a contentious moment, simply bring it up rather than skirting around the issue. It’s 2019, the etiquette of paying on a date doesn’t need to be taboo, and the final split can be agreed upon to fit the two of you!''

''If you have particularly strong feelings on the topic, bring it up first and politely express your view. If the bill has arrived, I would recommend doing what makes you feel most comfortable, be that offering to pay, split the bill, or contribute,'' she suggests.

Coetzee has one final tip for those wanting to gracefully deal with the issue of the check: ''if only one of you gets it this time, a nice way to imply that you would like a second date is to suggest you’ll pay for the next one.'' Now there's a way to make an irresistible first impression!  

EliteSingles Study, August 2019