Cause and Effect in Contracting Trends

The Moscow Times reports:

“According to official state data, of the nearly 1.2 million Russian couples who registered marriages in 2009, only about 25,000 — or about 2 percent — sealed contracts stipulating the terms of a divorce.

And that’s with roughly 58 percent of the country’s marriages eventually falling apart.

In the United States, most estimates show that about 4 percent of couples now sign a prenuptial contract, although the divorce rate there is about 43 percent.”

What explains the difference?  Is it:

(1)  A culturally-based view of love and contract?  That’s what the reporter concluded: “A prenuptial agreement treats the wife and husband as equal parties . . . is unacceptable for Russia’s traditional patriarchal view of the family . . .’Russians believe that love and a marriage contract are incompatible,’ [said Alexander Tesler, a Moscow-based psychotherapist.]”

(2) Russians’ distrust of courts and private contractual instruments, given the courts’ dubious history of nonbiased adjudication?

My money is on #2.  How could we test the theory?  The best approach would be to find a society with a better score on court performance than Russia’s, but which shares its “traditional patriarchal view of the family.”  I’ll take nominations.

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2 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    I think that whether Russia has, at this point, a “traditional patriarchal view of the family” is at least somewhat debatable. (In some ways it is, in my experience, more so than the US but in some ways much less so.) And the way divorce is treated is also quite different from in the US in some ways. But you’re right that few people there expect courts to treat a contract fairly, or put much faith in the courts. Sadly, this is for good reason. But I also wonder, given the really quite small percentage of people who get prenups in either country, whether we’re likely to find any consistent or deep reasons at all, as opposed to either not especially interesting one (more people are exposed to such ideas in the US, say) or a hodge-podge of idiosyncratic ones.

  2. Vladimir says:

    I would expect the prevalence of prenuptial agreements to hinge significantly on the wealth of the society involved. Prenuptial agreements divide money and property. The more money and property people have, the more likely they are to seek a prenuptial agreement. Russia is poorer than the U.S., so I would expect fewer prenuptial agreements there.