Rosalie Capri


By Rosalie

Features Editor

Here’s something for all female romantics to think about before accepting that next big promotion from your boss. Men who are completely economically dependent on their female partner’s income are five times more likely to cheat on their female partner than men who contribute an equal amount of money to the relationship according to a new study presented at the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting in August.

The study, “The effect of Relative Income Disparity on Infidelity for Men and Women,” examined 18-to-28-year-old married and cohabitating heterosexuals who were in the same relationship for more than a year. The study’s research data was calculated from findings of National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The ten year survey observed 9,000 heterosexuals and began in 1997 when they were children. The infidelity study focused on the years from 2001 to 2007.

Christin L. Munsch, a sociology Ph.D candidate at Cornell University and the author of the study, argues that, for men, making less money than a female partner may threaten men’s gender identity by calling into question the traditional notion of men as breadwinners. Munsch’s study suggests that the acts of infidelity compensate for feelings of inadequacy.

Munch’s findings show that having multiple sexual partners may be an attempt to restore gender identity in response to these threats.

In a cruel twist, when men’s financial situation greatly improved and their income was significantly higher than their female counterparts, the men continued their adulterous ways.

“At one end of the spectrum, making less money than a female partner may threaten men’s gender identity,” said Munsch in an ASA press release. “However, 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.”

Women’s Infidelity

Money seems to have the opposite effect on women and their fidelity. Women who were financially dependent on their husbands or boyfriends were less likely to cheat than women who made the same or more than their significant other.

Munsch’s study finds that women’s femininity is not defined by their breadwinning status, nor is it defined by sexual conquest.

“For women, making less money than a male partner is not threatening, it’s status quo,” said Munsch in a ASA press release.

The study concludes that women who earn less money have few opportunities to cheat. They also are less likely to risk their livelihood by indulging in acts of infidelity.

The relationship between economic dependence and infidelity was non- existent when the following variables were included in the mix.

Infidelity decreases when the following factors are present in the relationship:

• Religious Beliefs — Munsch’s study cites that the influence of strong religious values significantly lowers the chances that either partner will commit infidelity. The more times per week an individual attend a religious service the less like he or she is to cheat. The study cites that people who attend religious services are exposed to messages that condemn extramarital sex and promote accountability.

• Education — Education also plays an integral part in lowering the rate of infidelity between male and female partner, the study reports. The more educated one is the less likely he or she is to cheat.

• Relationship Satisfaction — The study also confirmed that the more satisfied one reports being in his or her relationship, the less likely that he or she is to engage in infidelity.

Munsch Summary On Her Study’s Findings

In an email interview, Munsch says, “ I was most surprised to find that the relationship between economic dependency and infidelity was not linear. That is, I was surprised to find that men who are more economically dependent on their partners are more likely to stray AND men whose partners are more dependent on them. It seems that egalitarian couples are the least likely to cheat – which is great – another nod for equality!“

Munsch says that her research was motivated by a personal friend’s infidelity. “I was already doing research on masculinity threat and compensation more broadly when several couples in my circle of friends broke up due to infidelity. One of the individuals who engaged in infidelity was kind enough to talk to me about his motivations for cheating. He told me that he had moved to the area to be with his partner and that his partner had all the money and all the friends. Essentially, he felt powerless. I hadn’t thought of infidelity in this way before and it fit in nicely with the other research I was doing, so I decided to pursue it further ”

Limitations Of The Study

One limitation was that eliciting information about people’s sexual experiences runs the risk of people not being truthful. The study suggests that participants may not want to talk about their acts of infidelity if the extramarital sex is as the report cites stigmatized or illegal. For example, participants who have sex with prostitutes or sex with same-sex partners are reluctant to reveal those experiences.

Another limitation cited in the study is that the study was limited to married heterosexual partners and cohabitating, heterosexual partners. Munsch’s study cites that future infidelity research will focus on participants that are dating, unmarried and not cohabitating and same sex partners.

Finally, the Munsch study examined infidelity as sexual intercourse with someone other than the partner’s spouse or relationship partner. “However, infidelity could also include emotional infidelity over the Internet, a long-distance phone relationship, or different types of sexual activity that do not include sexual intercourse,” said Musch.


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