According to recent data from the National Opinion Research Center's General Social Survey, American wives were nearly 40 percent more likely to be cheating on their spouses in 2010 than in 1990. The number of husbands reporting infidelity, meanwhile, stayed constant at 21 percent, meaning wives are now cheating 70% as often. Could women soon be catching up with male indiscretions in the world of infidelity? Yanyi Djamba, director of the AUM Center for Demographic Research, certainly seems to think so, telling Bloomberg that "the gender gap is closing" and explaining that men have been more likely to blame adultery on an unhappy marriage.
What could be driving the rise of female cheating? Explanations abound, ranging from women's increased economic independence over the past several decades (women "can afford the potential consequences of an affair, with higher incomes and more job prospects," argued one sociologist) to cultural shifts to the Internet (including but not limited to dating and extramarital meetup sites). The user data for one such service, Ashley Madison, more or less confirms the trend, at least in terms of age brackets:
The ratio of males to females is greatest among users older than 65, with 14 men for every woman. The ratio is 4-to-1 among users in their 50s, 3-to-1 for spouses in their 40s, and evenly divided among people using Ashley Madison in their 30s.
But there's no word on whether or not the NORC survey contains data on same-sex marriages — which, of course, did not exist two decades ago — and how the patterns may change as more and more gay couples are legally able to
commit adultery get married. What we do know is that executives and managers are more likely to cheat than any other career, supporting the notion that wealth and power plays a role in encouraging infidelity — but then was that ever really in doubt?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.