MONDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that men
are more likely to cheat if their income is much lower than what
their wife or female partner makes, while women are more likely to
fool around if they make more than their husband or male
The findings suggest that disparities in moneymaking play a
significant role in infidelity, at least among the young couples
"With women, they were less likely to engage in infidelity the less money they make relative to their husband," said study author Christin Munsch. "But for men, the less money you make relative to your spouse, the more likely you are to engage in infidelity."
Munsch, a graduate student at Cornell University, said she came
up with the idea of studying the effects of income on infidelity
after hearing from a friend who has cheated on his partner. He told
Munsch that "she made all the money, she had all the friends, and
he'd moved up there to be with her. He felt completely
While there's been previous research into infidelity, it didn't
look into differences in income among couples, Munsch said.
So she examined the results of a national survey that tracked
9,000 people beginning in 1997 when they were children. She focused
on the results of the survey from 2001-2007, when the participants
were between 17 and 27 years old.
The findings are scheduled to be released Monday at the American
Sociological Association annual meeting in Atlanta.
Munsch found that almost 7 percent of the men reported having
sex outside their relationships between 2002 and 2007, while about
3 percent of women did. Black and Hispanic men were more likely
than white men to have fooled around.
Two lifestyle factors, higher education and regular religious
observance, seem to help keep infidelity at bay for both men and
women, the study found.
But factors having to do with money -- such as the man making
more or less than his wife or female partner -- did increase the
risk of infidelity, Munsch said. But she cautioned that "we're
talking about very small numbers."
If you're a woman and "you make more money than your partner,
your partner isn't 100 percent likely to cheat," she stressed.
Still, money appeared to be a significant factor.
Men who make less than their wives may lean toward infidelity
because they feel a "gender identity threat," Munsch
"The range of acceptable behaviors for men is a lot narrower" when it comes to dynamics in a relationship, such as those involving finances, she said. "It's harder to hit that mark because it's a smaller mark. If you're not hitting the mark, you might feel threatened."
On the other end of the spectrum, infidelity seemed to rise when
one partner made a
lot more money than the other. And that held true whether the
man or the woman was the big wage earner.
"If you work long hours and have more disposable income, it's easier to hide infidelity," Munsch reasoned. For example, unusual expenses charged to credit cards might go unnoticed. Also, she said, people who make more money may also travel frequently and meet lots of people of the opposite sex.
Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and research professor at
Rutgers University, said it makes sense that men with more money
would be more likely to fool around.
"He probably travels a lot and drives nicer cars, and he's probably in finer restaurants. He's advertising the kind of resources that women are looking for from an evolutionary perspective," she said. "Around the world, women go for men who are on the top of the pile."
But there's less reason, from an evolutionary perspective, for a
man to stray if he makes less money than his female partner, she
said. "You'd think a man would want to stick around those resources
himself. That may have more of a purely psychological
As for women, she said, wealth brings them a greater power to do
what they want, whether it's leave a bad relationship or have an
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has details on
divorce, the end product of some infidelity.