Your cheating heart: Bryant researcher examines economic considerations of infidelity

August 12th, 2008

Edinaldo Tebaldi

SMITHFIELD, R.I. - According to Edinaldo Tebaldi, an economist at Bryant University, John Edwards may have given the potential impact of his recent extramarital affair more consideration than some would think.

Tebaldi, an assistant professor of economics, is the co-author of "So, What Did You Do Last Night? The Economics of Infidelity," a study that appears in the latest issue of the journal Kyklos. The article was co-written with economist Bruce Elmslie of the University of New Hampshire.

The authors examined data from the U.S. General Social Survey to study how married American adults determine the costs and benefits of cheating on a spouse and how the determinations differ for men and women. "Although biological urges are important drivers in forming preferences, rational choice - a cost-and-benefit analysis - and free will may overcome biological urges and determine a person's behavior toward marital infidelity," Tebaldi said.According to the researchers, the behavior of men and women toward infidelity differs substantially because men and women respond differently to the perceived costs and benefits of an affair.

For women, biological and socioeconomic factors - for instance, men who are good candidates to father a child and who have the education and financial stability to provide for a family — are significant components that women consider when deciding to have an affair. Not so for men, who, overall, are 7 percent more likely to cheat than women.And though the authors found that social class plays no role in explaining men's behavior toward infidelity, upper-class women are more likely to cheat than middle- and lower-class women.The researchers also reveal the impact that education and religion have on a person's likelihood to have an extramarital affair.

Other findings:

For a copy of the study, contact Tracie Sweeney at 401-232-6391, or send e-mail to tsweeney@bryant.edu.

For 145 years, Bryant University has developed the knowledge and character of students in order to help them succeed. A unique integration of business, liberal arts, and technology defines the Bryant educational experience. Located in Smithfield, R.I., the university has more than 3,600 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students. The university is accredited by NEASC - New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and the College of Business is accredited by AACSB International - The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Bryant's academic reputation is complemented by its business outreach centers that offer services to businesses in this region.

Keywords: economics, Faculty, Research