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Reinterpreting the economics of extramarital affairs


  • Ian Smith



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. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Ian Smith, 2012. "Reinterpreting the economics of extramarital affairs," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 319-343, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:reveho:v:10:y:2012:i:3:p:319-343 DOI: 10.1007/s11150-012-9146-9

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Weiren Wang, 1997. "Tobit analysis with a natural non-response rate," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(3), pages 191-194.
    2. Fair, Ray C, 1978. "A Theory of Extramarital Affairs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(1), pages 45-61, February.
    3. Siv Gustafsson & Seble Worku, 2005. "Assortative Mating by Education and Postponement of Couple Formation and First Birth in Britain and Sweden," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 91-113, November.
    4. Gustaf Bruze & Michael Svarer & Yoram Weiss, 2015. "The Dynamics of Marriage and Divorce," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 123-170.
    5. Ganzeboom, H.B.G. & de Graaf, P.M. & Treiman, D.J. & de Leeuw, J., 1992. "A standard international socio-economic index of occupational status," WORC Paper 85970031-d601-46e3-befb-1, Tilburg University, Work and Organization Research Centre.
    6. Terra G. McKinnish, 2007. "Sexually Integrated Workplaces and Divorce: Another Form of On-the-Job Search," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(2).
    7. Lance Lochner & Enrico Moretti, 2004. "The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 155-189, March.
    8. Xuemei Liu, 2008. "An effective punishment scheme to reduce extramarital affairs: an economic approach," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 25(2), pages 167-175, April.
    9. QI Li & Jeff Racine, 2004. "Predictor relevance and extramarital affairs," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4), pages 533-535.
    10. Friehe, Tim, 2008. "Optimal sanctions and endogeneity of differences in detection probabilities," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 150-155, June.
    11. Steven Yen, 1999. "Nonparticipation and corner solution: extramarital affairs reconsidered," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(7), pages 443-445.
    12. Hans Bloemen & Silvia Pasqua & Elena Stancanelli, 2010. "An empirical analysis of the time allocation of Italian couples: are they responsive?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 345-369, September.
    13. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen & Michael L. Katz, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317.
    14. Bruce Elmslie & Edinaldo Tebaldi, 2008. "So, What Did You Do Last Night? The Economics of Infidelity," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 391-410, August.
    15. Samuel Cameron, 2002. "The Economics Of Partner Out Trading in Sexual Markets," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 195-222, October.
    16. Pagan, Adrian & Vella, Frank, 1989. "Diagnostic Tests for Models Based on Individual Data: A Survey," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 4(S), pages 29-59, Supplemen.
    17. Hong H. & Chernozhukov V., 2002. "Three-Step Censored Quantile Regression and Extramarital Affairs," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 97, pages 872-882, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ingela Alger & Donald Cox, 2013. "The evolution of altruistic preferences: mothers versus fathers," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 421-446, September.
    2. Adamopoulou, Effrosyni, 2013. "New facts on infidelity," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 121(3), pages 458-462.

    More about this item


    Infidelity; Occupation; Education; Sexual behavior; D13; J12; J29;

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J29 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Other


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