“Traditionally, when evaluating attractiveness, particularly for long-term relationships, women place importance on men’s status,” says Gary Brase, Ph. D., a psychology professor at Kansas State University. But how people perceive higher status, he adds, is relative to their own—in other words, “it’s about finding someone you think is higher up than you are.” A trend of women’s status rising faster than men’s will lead more women to perceive that the number of suitable partners is shrinking—and, of necessity, more of them will begin to rethink what they want from a relationship…

UCLA’s Pillsworth adds that while data show that many women still place great emphasis on men’s ability to provide, the scope of what they expect a man to bring to a partnership is broad and getting broader: “It’s often less about absolute earning power and more about personality variables such as reliability, generosity, social status, and kindness.” As women have greater access to resources, Pillsworth says, they have more freedom to choose what they want in a life mate. (This means that in the near future we may see fewer beautiful women partnered with short, tubby, bald men driving Porches.)

Most experts seem to agree that we won’t see a dystopian future inhabited by beer-swilling, channel-surfing male spongers headed for a lifetime of temp jobs; instead, they say, men will improve their all-around game and become versatile enough to function in a lead or a supporting role as circumstances require.