Cheating in a Relationship Linked to Household Income

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Researchers have found a link between men who cheat and household income. Findings from a study show the more economically dependent a man is on a female partner, the more likely he is to be unfaithful. Interestingly, men who made more money than their partner were also found to be prone to cheating. For women, economic dependence on a man had the opposite effect.

A study of 18 to 28 year old co-habitating couples found men were five times more likely to cheat on their partner if they were completely dependent on their female partner's income, compared to men who contribute an equal amount of money to the partnership.

Christin Munsch, a sociology Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University and author of the study, says it might be that men who make less money are just unhappy, and it may have nothing to do with household income.

For Men, More Money also leads to Cheating

The findings also showed that men who make significantly more money than their partners are also more likely to cheat.

Munsch says" At one end of the spectrum, making less money than a female partner may threaten men's gender identity by calling into question the traditional notion of men as breadwinners. At the other end of the spectrum, men who make a lot more money than their partners may be in jobs that offer more opportunities for cheating like long work hours, travel, and higher incomes that make cheating easier to conceal."

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Economic Dependence Lowers the Chances a Woman will Cheat

For women, economic dependence had the opposite effect - those who rely on their partner's income were 50 percent less likely to be unfaithful than women earning the same as their partner, and 75 percent less likely compared to women contributing most or all of the money in the household.

"For women, making less money than a male partner is not threatening, it is the status quo," said Munsch. "More importantly, economically dependent women may encounter fewer opportunities to cheat, and they may make a calculated decision that cheating just isn't worth it. If they get caught, their livelihood is at risk."

The good news is that few partners cheat on each other - only 3.8 percent of men questioned and 1.4 percent of women reported cheating in any given year during the six-year period studied. The data for the study was extracted from waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 2002 through 2007.

The results showed men whose female partners earned 75 percent of their own income were the least likely to cheat. Infidelity was found to be linked to household income in the study, but was different for men than women. For men, variables that include relationship satisfaction, religion, age and education level eliminated the relationship between economic dependence and infidelity. For women, the unlikelihood of cheating remained constant in relation to dependency on a man’s income.

Newswise

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