The results of a study at Cornell University show that in a long-term relationships such as marriage or cohabitation of over a year, income disparity within the couple increases the likelihood of infidelity. The headlines of the study speak more to the data that show men who earn less than their wives are five times more likely to cheat. Women who are financial dependent on their husbands are more faithful.
Like most surveys, the results depend on the participants being truthful about their thoughts and actions, and not everyone may be willing to admit to cheating on their spouse. Nevertheless, the researchers believe the study is accurate even if some of the answers were not fully forthcoming.
Note that the study doesn’t claim a causal relationship between income disparity and infidelity, just a correlation. Relationships may be stronger when both individuals have a similar level of income. While I often hear that opposites attract, what’s true for charged ions does not always translate to humans. It’s easier to form a partnership in life when a couple can agree on major life goals and a shared attitude towards building wealth or paying off debt.
It’s probably not the income disparity itself that correlates to increased infidelity. If someone feels inadequate in one situation, they might seek to compensate in another. This could explain why men cheat when they earn less than women, but the study also shows that men have an increased likelihood of infidelity when they earn significantly more than their partners. Other studies have shown that wealthier men and women have more sex than their less wealthy counterparts.
The results of the survey shouldn’t concern anyone. There is more that goes into infidelity than differences in income. Every relationship is unique.
Are you in a relationship where your partner earns significantly less or significantly more? Has this caused any difficulty? Readers, feel free to share your stories, anonymously if you like.
Husbands Who Earn Less Than Wives Are More Likely To Cheat, Whitney Blair Wyckoff, NPR, August 16, 2010
More Money, Better Sex, MarketWatch, February 10, 2007
Updated September 23, 2010 and originally published August 18, 2010.