public policy, divorce, premarital education, marriage


Currently, 10 states have enacted policies to promote premarital education and counseling. However, no research has documented whether these policies have actually decreased divorce rates in implementing states. The purpose of this study is to assess the effects of premarital education promotion policies on divorce rates. First, we conducted an implementation study to understand how well each state implemented the policy. A combination of methods was used, including reviewing the legislative documents and archival records, as well as interviewing academics and key persons knowledgeable of the legislation. Following the implementation study, we conducted an evaluation study to analyze the effects of the policies on divorce rates. Divorce rate data were obtained from NCHS National Vital Statistics Reports (1988-2016) and analyzed using difference-in-difference estimation with state fixed effects. The results of the implementation study documented generally poor implementation; most implementing states had little formal, ongoing oversight of policy implementation. Results of the evaluation study suggest that simple passage of legislation was ineffective, but effectively implementing a policy was significantly associated with a .5% decrease in the divorce rate. Follow-up analyses, however, with an event history approach suggested that the policies have not had a discernible impact on divorce rates. We conclude with a discussion of the results of the implementation and evaluation studies and make suggestions for future policy efforts and research.

Original Publication Citation

Tiffany L. Clyde, Jocelyn S. Wikle, Alan J. Hawkins, and Spencer L. James. “The Effects of Premarital Education Promotion Policies on U.S. Divorce Rates.” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Psychology, Public Policy, and Law




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor