, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 319-343

Reinterpreting the economics of extramarital affairs

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Abstract

The empirical results for the economic variables presented by Fair (J Political Econ 86(1):45–61, 1978) in his seminal study of extramarital affairs are puzzling within his household allocation of time framework. In particular, the theory is unable to accommodate readily the opposite signs for occupation (positive) and education (negative), assuming the wage rate is directly correlated with both variables. This paper provides a new interpretation of Fair’s estimates that accounts for the unexpected education result in terms of the association between schooling and the discount factor applied to expected future sanctions for sexual cheating. Three data sets from the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom are investigated to check the robustness of the partial correlations between infidelity and economic incentives. Taken together, the results across different countries and infidelity measures are substantially in agreement, especially for men. In a novel contribution, this study distinguishes between one off encounters, and irregular and regular forms of infidelity and finds that these are differentially related to occupation and education, consistent with theoretical predictions.