The percentage of wives having affairs rose almost 40 percent during the last two decades to 14.7 percent in 2010, while the number of men admitting to extramarital affairs held constant at 21 percent, according to the latest data from the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey.
The narrowing gap, reported by a sociologist at Auburn University at Montgomery, reflects multiple trends. Wives with their own jobs have less to lose economically from a divorce, and social media have made it easier to engage in affairs.
“Men are still more likely to cheat than women,” said Yanyi Djamba, director of the AUM Center for Demographic Research. “But the gender gap is closing.”
Blacks, executives and managers, and Southerners were most likely to report extramarital affairs to the 40-year-old survey, the oldest continuous source of data on American behavior.
The main impetus behind extramarital affairs was predictable, Djamba said: One in four men described their marriages as “not very happy,” more than twice the number of wives who rationalized their adultery that way.
The survey results lend support to one researcher’s argument that what’s been presumed about female sexuality for centuries may be wrong. Daniel Bergner, the author of the newly published book “What Do Women Want?,” said cultural expectations have prevented women from having more affairs.
In a survey conducted by AshleyMadison.com, a dating website specializing in extramarital affairs, the ten most popular retails stores for cheating wives include Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and H&M.