Making The Complex

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Can income disparity lead to cheating?

Adultery is a cause, or at least a factor, in many Louisiana divorces. People cheat on their spouses for numerous reasons. No one can predict with absolute certainty whether he or she will be the victim of a straying husband or wife. However, a study just published in the American Sociological Review indicates one potential factor: the variance in income between two spouses.

The University of Connecticut study used data from federal research done in the decade between 2001 and 2011. Specifically, the UConn study looked at information on approximately 2,800 married heterosexual couples under 32 years old.

The couples weren’t asked directly about their fidelity. However, they did answer questions about how many people they’d had sex with in the past year.

Researchers determined that couples with equivalent incomes were most likely to be faithful. Among the couples with a significant income disparity, the findings were interesting.

While both men and women who didn’t contribute to the family income were more likely to cheat than those who made about the same income as their spouse, there were differences between men and women’s behavior. Men were more likely to cheat whether they were the ones with the larger or smaller income.

Men whose wives contributed nothing to the household earnings had about a 4 percent chance of cheating. The wives in those marriages had only a slightly greater likelihood (5 percent) of cheating.

When women were the primary or sole breadwinners, the story was different. Men whose wives brought in 100 percent of the income had about a 15 percent likelihood of straying. However, the woman’s chances of committing adultery decreased as their percentage of contribution to the household earnings rose. Women who were the sole breadwinners had less than a 2 percent likelihood of cheating.

The study’s author suggests that people “don’t like inequality in their relationships.” So what’s a person who wants a happy marriage and thriving career to do? The sociologist suggests looking at how your partner reacts to your career advancements before getting married. She notes, “You want to pick somebody who is happy for your successes.”

When one spouse earns significantly more than the other, it’s crucial to protect that income in a divorce. However, spouses who earn nothing or less than their spouses want to ensure that they have enough to get by on their own after divorce. In both cases, experienced legal guidance is essential.

Source: The Washington Post, “The fascinating connection between how much married people make and how likely they are to cheat,” Max Ehrenfreund, June 04, 2015


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