Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 319–343 | Cite as

Reinterpreting the economics of extramarital affairs



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.


Infidelity Occupation Education Sexual behavior 

JEL Classification

D13 J12 J29 


  1. Akerlof, G. A., Yellen, J. L., & Katz, M. L. (1996). An analysis of out-of-wedlock childbearing in the United States. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 111(2), 277–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, D., & Brinig, M. (1998). Sex, property rights and divorce. European Journal of Law and Economics, 5, 211–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bloemen, H. G., Pasqua, S., & Stancanelli, E. G. F. (2010). An empirical analysis of the time allocation of Italian couples: are they responsive? Review of the Economics of the Household, 8, 345–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blow, A. J., & Hartnett, K. (2005). Infidelity in committed relationships I: a methodological review. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 31(2), 183–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bruze, G., Svarer, M., & Weiss, Y. (2012). The dynamics of marriage and divorce. IZA Discussion Paper 6379.Google Scholar
  6. Cameron, S. (2002). The economics of partner out trading in sexual markets. Journal of Bioeconomics, 4, 195–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chernozhukov, V., & Hong, H. (2002). Three-step censored quantile regression and extramarital affairs. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 97, 872–882.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cox, D. (2008). The evolutionary biology and economics of sexual behavior and infidelity. Preliminary draft, Department of Economics, Boston College.Google Scholar
  9. Elmslie, B., & Tebaldi, E. (2008). So, what did you do last night? The economics of infidelity. Kyklos, 61(3), 391–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Erens, B., McManus, S., Field, J., Korovessis, C., Johnson, A., Fenton, K., et al. (2001). National survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles II: Technical report. London: National Centre for Social Research.Google Scholar
  11. Fair, R. (1978). A theory of extramarital affairs. Journal of Political Economy, 86(1), 45–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Friehe, T. (2008). Optimal sanctions and endogeneity of differences in detection probabilities. International Review of Law and Economics, 28, 150–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ganzeboom, H. B. G., De Graaf, P. M., & Treiman, D. J. (1992). A standard international socio-economic index of occupational status. Social Science Research, 21, 1–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ganzeboom, H. B. G., & Treiman, D. J. (2011). International stratification and mobility file: Conversion tools. Amsterdam: Department of Social Research Methodology.
  15. Grossbard-Shechtman, S. (1993). On the economics of marriage. A theory of marriage, labor, and divorce. Boulder, Co: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gustafsson, S., & Worku, S. (2005). Assortative mating by education and postponement of couple formation and first birth in Britain and Sweden. Review of Economics of the Household, 3, 91–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hollingshead, A. B. (1957). Two factor index of social position, unpublished mimeo. New Haven: Yale University.Google Scholar
  18. Huinink, J., Brüderl, J., Nauck, B., Walper, S., Castiglioni, L., & Feldhaus, M. (2011). Panel analysis of intimate relationships and family dynamics (pairfam): Conceptual framework and design. Zeitschrift für Familienforschung, 23, 77–101.Google Scholar
  19. Iversen, T., & Rosenbluth, F. (2006). The political economy of gender: Explaining cross national variation in the gender division of labor and the gender voting gap. American Journal of Political Science, 50(1), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Li, Q., & Racine, J. (2004). Predictor relevance and extramarital affairs. Journal of Applied Econometrics, 19, 533–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Liu, X. (2008). An effective punishment scheme to reduce extramarital affairs: An economic approach. European Journal of Law and Economics, 25, 167–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lochner, L., & Moretti, E. (2004). The effect of education on crime: Evidence from prison inmates, arrests, and self-reports. American Economic Review, 94, 155–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McKinnish, T. G. (2007). Sexually-integrated workplaces and divorce: Another form of on-the-job search. Journal of Human Resources, 42(2), 331–352.Google Scholar
  24. Nakao, K., & Treas, J. (1992). The 1989 socioeconomic index of occupations: Construction from the 1989 occupational prestige scores. GSS Methodological Report No. 74. Chicago: NORC.Google Scholar
  25. Pagan, A., & Vella, F. (1989). Diagnostic tests for models based on individual data: A survey. Journal of Applied Econometrics, 4, S29–S59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Posner, R. A. (1992). Sex and reason. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Rasmusen, E. (2002). An economic approach to adultery law. In A. W. Dnes & R. E. Rowthorn (Eds.), The law and economics of marriage and divorce (pp. 70–91). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schmidt, D. (2005). Fundamentals of human mating strategies. In D. M. Buss (Ed.), The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 258–291). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  29. Wang, W. (1997). Tobit analysis with a natural non-response rate. Applied Economics Letters, 4, 191–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Wax, A. (2011). Diverging family structure and ‘rational’ behavior: The decline in marriage as a disorder of choice. In L. R. Cohen & J. D. Wright (Eds.), Research handbook on the economics of family law. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  31. Wellings, K., Field, J., Johnson, A., & Wadsworth, J. (1994). Sexual behaviour in Britain: The national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  32. Wells, C. (2003). Retesting Fair’s (1978) model on infidelity. Journal of Applied Econometrics, 18, 237–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Yen, S. T. (1999). Nonparticipation and corner solution: Extramarital affairs reconsidered. Applied Economics Letters, 6, 443–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Economics and FinanceUniversity of St AndrewsFifeUK

Personalised recommendations