The economics of adultery

The financial crisis of 2008 may have driven many people to betray their wedding vows, according to data from Ashley Madison, an unusual and apparently very popular dating Web site for those seeking extramarital relations.

… Analysts at Ashley Madison found evidence of a relationship between the economy and infidelity when they examined user data in individual states. They compared the change in the number of employed people in each state with the growth in Ashley Madison’s membership there. The tentative conclusion: People who’ve lost their jobs might be more likely to cheat — or, at least, are more likely to sign up for an adultery dating site.

There was a lot of variation among the states, and it’s easy to think of other possible causes besides economic ones for those differences. … a lower concentration of highly educated people might correspond to a smaller target audience for the site. … in states where the employment level fell further, more people signed up for Ashley Madison.

Some other interesting notes from Ashley Madison’s data:

  • Almost all of the activity on Ashley Madison — around 95 percent — is heterosexual.
  • Husbands with 39-year-old wives should be extra nice: Women who are 39 years old are more than four times as likely to sign up for Ashley Madison as women aged 38 or 40.
  • About one-third of Ashley Madison’s users seek their first affair from three to five years after their wedding, around the time when the first child is born.
  • A little more than a quarter of Ashley Madison’s users first create an account when their children leave the house for college. Men in this group are generally between the ages of 60 and 65, while women are between the ages of 55 and 58.

Separate research by Christin Munsch, a sociologist at Furman University, suggests another reason that adultery and the economy might be connected. After controlling for factors such as a person’s income, education and satisfaction in his or her relationship, Munsch found that men who earned very little relative to their wives were much more likely to stray. … Munsch also found that among very wealthy women, those who made significantly more than their husbands were also more likely to cheat.

… To be sure, there are limitations on Ashley Madison’s data, as well, since it is a particular kind of person who signs up on a dating Web site for married people. The site’s advertising is aimed at well-educated women. …

Reference: The economics of adultery


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