The majority of Americans describe their ideal relationship as completely monogamous. 74% of Americans believe that sex outside of marriage is always wrong.
However, the majority of Americans also think it’s easier to cheat now than it was 20 years ago, and dating-while-married site Ashley Madison is more popular than ever before with more than 60 million users in 50 countries. So how many of us are cheating, and who’s at it more — men or women?
The short answer (unsurprisingly?) is that men cheat more. Around 25% of married men and 15% of married women admit to sexual infidelity.
The long answer is that although more men cheat overall, factors like age, education, political views, sexual preference, financial independence, and even race may influence how likely they are to stray.
Age: Middle-Aged People Cheat the Most
Men cheat more than women at almost every age. The notable exception is married women aged 18-29. They are 1% more likely to cheat than men in this demographic.
More middle-aged people cheat overall, and men report the highest level of cheating in their 70s. Women report the highest rates of infidelity in their 60s, with 16% of 60- to 69-year-olds reporting to have had sex outside of marriage.
Interestingly, cheating is lowest among 18- to 29-year-olds at 11% overall. A recent YouGov poll indicated that millennials are equally likely to want to be in a monogamous relationship and to think that the ideal relationship is non-monogamous (43% each).
Political Views: Republicans Cheat the Least
There’s a 4% cheating gap between members of different political parties. 14% of confessed cheaters were registered Republicans, 15% were Independents, and 18% were Democrats.
Education: People With Some College Education Cheat the Most
Similar to political views, it seems your level of education could also indicate how likely you are to cheat. 15% of confessed cheaters had a high school diploma or less, 16% had completed one or more college degrees, and 18% had attained some college education.
Economic Independence: Financially-Dependent Men Cheat the Most
A study by the American Sociological Association showed that in heterosexual relationships, the spouse who earns less is more likely to cheat. 15% of financially-dependent husbands will cheat on their wives. Men are least likely to cheat when they earn 70% of their household’s combined income.
The same study showed that just 5% of women cheat when they are economically reliant on their spouses. The more a woman contributes to her household’s total income, the less likely she is to cheat.
Ashley Madison, a dating site for married people, ran a study to find out which professions have the most cheaters. It revealed that people in these jobs are most likely to cheat: retail and hospitality (8% of men and 9% of women), information technology (12% of men and 8% of women), entrepreneurs (11% of each sex), medicine (5% of men and 23% of women), and trades (29% of men and 4% of women).
Sexual Preference: Heterosexual Marriages Experience the Most Infidelity
Most of the information I’ve included is based on data collected from married heterosexual couples (more on this in “Disclaimer” below). A 2010 study of more than 560 male gay couples concluded that 45% had monogamous relationships and that a significant percentage were in open relationships.
The Rockway Institute, a center for LGBT research and public policy in California, published a report stating that young LGBT people “want to spend their adult life in long-term relationships raising children.” 80% of the young people surveyed expected to be in monogamous relationships after age 30.
These sources indicate that many LGBT people who have sex outside of their relationships do so with their partner’s consent, and that younger people are already focused on successful future relationships. In other words, LGBT people are less likely to cheat than people in heterosexual relationships.
Race: Conflicting Data
A study published by the IFS concluded that your race may also play a role in how likely you are to cheat on your spouse. In its study, 13% of Hispanic, 16% of white, and 22% of Black respondents admitted to cheating (the study didn’t record responses from any Asian or Native Americans, showing a biased sample group).
However, another study reported that 81% of Black Americans believe that it’s always wrong to cheat. This study linked a higher rate of church attendance with the belief that infidelity is always wrong.
So What Are You Saying?
If the results of this survey are to be believed, you’re most likely to cheat if you’re a Black male pensioner with some college education who votes Democrat, relies on your wife for financial support, and rarely attends church. You’re least likely to cheat if you’re a somewhat-religious Hispanic 80-year-old female Republican with a high school diploma.
Sound unlikely? That’s because it is…
It’s important to note that it’s very hard to find reliable data about infidelity. Most of the articles I read cited the Institute for Family Studies as a source.
As a politically conservative, right-wing, religious think tank, the IFS probably has an agenda, so its data is likely to be biased. For example, it only surveyed married people (or people who had previously been married), so the experiences of unmarried people in long-term relationships aren’t included. It also didn’t indicate if any of its respondents were in same-sex marriages.
Additionally, statistics on infidelity are usually based on what’s known as self-reporting data. In this case, it means people answer questions, but their answers can’t be verified in any way. The people conducting the survey have to trust that the respondents are answering honestly. The results may not be reliable as they cannot necessarily be replicated.
The results are also completely dependent on the sample of people who are surveyed: a different sample group will probably lead to totally different results.
Men (and especially older men) are more likely to cheat than women, but women aren’t completely innocent. This can make it really hard to trust people, even when you’ve been together for a long time. Consulting with a love psychic can help you feel more confident and secure in your relationship.