Are Women Narrowing the Cheating Gap?


Women are catching up with men when it comes to infidelity. Recent data from the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey reveal the number of women who are unfaithful in their marriages has risen 40 percent between 1990 to 2010. What’s the reason for the increase in reported infidelity, and how does it compare to men?

Men Still Cheat More Than Women Do

It’s true that 40 percent sounds like a drastic increase, but that number translates to a rate of 14.7 percent of infidelity among women responding to the survey. The rate of infidelity among men stayed fairly steady at 21 percent. These numbers are similar to findings from the Kinsey Institute, which reported that 20-25 percent of men and 10-15 percent of women were unfaithful.

The NORC Survey also found differences in rates of infidelity in different segments of the population. African Americans, Southerners, and executives and managers had higher rates of infidelity.

Why Are Women Cheating More?

It’s possible that the number of women cheating has not increased, and only the number of those reporting infidelity has risen. But assuming that infidelity has become more widespread, what could be the reasons?

Unhappiness in marriage, for one. While more men than women describe their marriages as unhappy, unhappy women will also look for comfort and support outside of their marriage. Women are more deliberate about having an affair, while men may have one on an impulse, or because the situation presents itself.

The narrowing infidelity gap and narrowing income gap may also be related. Women have more opportunities than ever to find fulfilling and well-paying jobs, meaning they are not tied to their husbands financially as they were in the past. If divorce does occur as a result of infidelity, many are in a better economic situation to handle it.

Many argue that technology is also a culprit. Cell phones, online hook-up sites, and social media have made finding a partner to cheat with and arranging clandestine meetings easier than ever before. Sites like Ashley Madison, which cater to married people looking to have affairs, have grown in popularity. Ashley Madison now has over 3.5 million users worldwide.

These reasons are probably also related to why women are more likely to file for divorce than men are.

Legal Consequences of Infidelity

But is this a situation in which women should be proud to be more like men? The consequences of infidelity can be undesirable and affect not just the couple but the whole family. In some states, adultery affects divorce settlements and child custody, particularly when prenuptial agreements are involved.