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Men who earn less than women more likely to cheat: study

August 17, 2010

Men who earn less than their female partner are more likely to cheat on her, a study published Monday found.

Cheating may be a man's way of trying to restore his gender identity when he feels it is under threat, Christin Munsch, a sociology doctorate candidate at Cornell University, says in the study, which she authored and presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

"Making less money than a female partner may threaten men's gender identity by calling into question the traditional notion of men as breadwinners," said the study's author Christin Munsch, a sociology doctorate candidate at Cornell University.

"This relationship may be particularly strong for certain subgroups of the population that highly value traditional masculinity, like Latino men," she added.

Indeed, the study found that infidelity dramatically increased when the man earning less than his female partner is Latino, probably because breadwinner status is "one of the defining features of Hispanic masculinity."

Then again, the same study found that men whose partners were more dependent on them were also more likely to cheat, making it a lose-lose situation for women.

It's different for girls, though.

If a woman is the main breadwinner in the family, she's more likely to cheat -- it would seem that relationships where women earn more than men really are doomed -- and if she depends on her male partner for money, then she is less likely to cheat.

Overall, women are half as likely to cheat as men anyway, whatever the circumstances, the study found.

"Women's femininity is not defined by their breadwinner status, nor is it defined by sexual conquest. Therefore, economic dependency does not serve as a threat to women," Munsch says.

"Rather, given the sexual double standard, it is likely that, for women, economic dependency leads women to be more faithful."

The study indicates ways to prevent one's partner cheating without giving up the well-paid day job.

Both sides being satisfied in a relationship is a sure-fire way to make infidelity disappear, and getting your partner to go to church or the mosque or temple regularly is another: the more regularly an individual attends a religious service, the less likely he or she is to cheat, the study says.

Looking for a partner in a university library, lab or lecture might also be an idea because, the study says, "the more education one reports, the less likely he or she is to engage in infidelity."

Munsch analyzed data on 1,024 men and 1,559 women who were married or living with a partner for at least a year for the study, which also found that, for whatever reason, men were around twice as likely as women to be unfaithful -- 6.7 percent of men cheated in a six-year period versus 3.3 percent of women.

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