Why poor husbands cheat on rich wives

A man is five times more likely to cheat if he earns less money than his wife or girlfriend, claims a new study. Should well-paid women be worried? 

In one study, women who earned less than their partners were least likely to cheat on them.
(Image credit: Corbis)

A man is five times more likely to cheat on his wife if she earns more money than he does, according to a new Cornell University study. Here, a brief guide to the findings:

Why do lower-earning men cheat more?

It's most likely an "attempt to compensate for feelings of inadequacy" because of the loss of the traditionally male "breadwinner" status, says study author Christin Munsch. As evidence, Munsch points to an especially high rate of infidelity among Latino men whose wives or live-in girlfriends earn more. She speculates that the effect is pronounced in this demographic group because being the breadwinner is "one of the defining features of Hispanic masculinity."

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Who else is more likely to cheat?

Men who earn significantly more than their partner. Munsch speculates that it's because this group tends to have higher-powered professions that create more opportunity for illicit actions and the financial resources to cover them up. Ironically enough, women who earn more than their husbands are also more prone to adultery.

And who is the least likely?

Women who earn less than their partners. "They may make a calculated decision that cheating just isn't worth it," says Munsch. "If they get caught, their livelihood is at risk." The key to a faithful relationship, according to the study, is for a woman to earn 25 percent less than her husband or partner.

How prevalent is cheating, in general?

According to Munsch's study, about 7 percent of men cheat, compared with 3 percent of women. But don't forget, says Judy McGuire at Seattle Weekly, "cheating is one of those vices like drinking, drugging, and eating Big Macs that people tend to under-report."

I'm married to a house husband. Should I be worried?

Perhaps. But factors like age, education level, income, and religious attendance also play a major role, notes Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon.com — so don't automatically assume there's a problem. "It's just not too easy to put your finger on what makes a person cheat."

Sources: NPR, MSNBC, Daily Telegraph, Seattle Weekly, Salon.com

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