Will You Covenant Marry Me? An Empirical Look at a New Type of Marriage

Amanda J. Felkey, Cornell University

In a sort of delayed backlash to the late 1980’s trend toward no fault divorces, some states have begun to offer covenant marriage contracts in addition to the traditional marriage option. Aimied to combat growing divorce rates and create stronger, happier unions, the stricter covenant marriage contract, available in Arkansas, Arizona and Louisiana, makes exiting a marriage more difficult. This paper theoretically and empirically explores what determines the choice to covenant marry. Furthermore it analyzes the effects of the covenant-marriage-option on divorce rates. This study utilizes Arkansas and Louisiana marriage certificate data, including all marriages from 1990 to 2003, to empirically determine the scope and effects of the covenant marriage option. Individual and couple characteristics are used to determine how covenants are systematically chosen over traditional marriages. Parish level yearly divorce and covenant rates lead to a determination of the options effectiveness in creating stronger, happier unions.

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Presented in Poster Session 5: Union Formation and Dissolution, Fertility, Family and Well-being