Here’s a useful nugget for misogynists and man-haters alike: The more a man depends on his female partner’s paycheck, the better the chances he will cheat.
“Having multiple sex partners may be an attempt to compensate for feelings of inadequacy,” suggests a paper presented at the 105th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in August. The study looked at 18- to 28-year-old married and cohabiting heterosexuals who had been in the same relationship for at least a year. Data was culled from the continuing National Longitudinal Survey of Youth begun in 1997.
Men who were completely dependent on their female partner’s income — the vaunted Stay at Home Dad, for example, and his less appreciated cohort, Laid-Off Dad — were five times more likely to cheat than men who contributed an equal amount of money to the relationship. And, in a cruel twist for women, men who earn significantly more than their female partners are also more likely to cheat.
The safety zone, apparently, is when women make 75 percent of what men earn, which sounds suspiciously like the national average of women’s salaries relative to men’s.
But the findings don’t entirely explain the enduring glass ceiling. According to the study’s author, Christin L. Munsch, the relationship between economic dependence and male infidelity disappeared when age, education level, income, religious attendance and relationship satisfaction were taken into account.
“This means that some of these other factors are affecting it, but we don’t know what they are,” Ms. Munsch said. She plans to follow up with a more detailed analysis. One explanation may be that economically dependent men are less happy in their relationships, and therefore more likely to cheat.
Whatever the cocktail of contributing factors, the opposite holds true for women. Economic dependency seems to breed fidelity, and controlling for age, education level, income, religious attendance and relationship satisfaction doesn’t alter the fact. Women, Ms. Munsch said, have more to lose if they’re caught in someone else’s sheets.
But even Ms. Munsch cautions couples not to take the data too much to heart. Tempering the findings is the overall low percentage of people who admitted to cheating — 3.8 percent of male partners and 1.4 percent of female partners annually, roughly in line with the national average, which runs from 3 to 4 percent of married spouses in a given year.
People will lie about sex, even in anonymous polls. But Ms. Munsch said, “I’m scared women will think their partner will cheat because they make more money.”
Ladies and gentlemen, scoundrels and shrews: score one for sexual stereotypes. But don’t turn down that rare raise.
What do you think about this? Have any of you ever been in this situation?