Guys, Would You Rather Have Money or a Date?

It may be a choice millennial men have to make.

Hey, all you young men out there living sorry lives in these confusing times? We have good news and bad news. The good news first: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that Gen Y guys who move back in with their parents aren’t doomed to suffer the major long-term economic hit predicted in a despair-inducing 2010 cover story in The Atlantic. That piece, authored by Don Peck, cited the work of Yale economist Lisa Kahn, who found that those entering the workforce during a recession earn 10 percent less throughout their careers. But according to Forbes, Penn’s team, in a study of high-school-educated Gen Y men that appears in the Journal of Political Economy, found the lifetime reduction only applied to those who were out on their own, not those who’ve moved back in with Mom and Dad—or never left the nest. (The study’s lead author, Greg Kaplan, thinks its findings can be extrapolated to college-educated men. Some 20 percent of men ages 24 to 34 now live at home, compared to 10 percent of women in that age group.)

In an even more interesting twist, Kaplan’s team found the young men in question didn’t have to physically inhabit the same space as their parents; merely having the option of doing so (and coming home on weekends to have Mom do their laundry, no doubt) provided enough security that they felt empowered to be more picky about the jobs they took, which in turn set them on the road to higher lifetime earnings. In other words, they didn’t feel they had to take the first job that came down the pike.

So it’s all good, right? The guys can afford to sit back and wait in patient unemployment? Well … sure, if they don’t mind not gettin’ any. By coincidence, in a new poll of nearly 1,000 respondents conducted by a dating service for young professionals called It’s Just Lunch, 75 percent of the women surveyed said it was “unlikely” they’d date a guy who didn’t have a job; only 21 percent said they absolutely were willing to date an unemployed man. In contrast, nearly two-thirds of male respondents said dating an unemployed woman wouldn’t be a problem for them. Now, before those accusations of gold-digging start flying, the women respondents said it wasn’t money that made the difference, but rather that they preferred their guys to be busy and not just sitting around the house—you know, watching porn and playing video games.

And there, gentlemen, is the modern male dilemma in a nutshell: Stay home and get paid, or take the job and get laid. As Meatloaf’s paramour so eloquently put it in Paradise by the Dashboard Light: What’s it gonna be, boy?