The Marriage Pact’s premise is straightforward enough. Fill out a 50-question form about your values and romantic preferences, and earn yourself a prospective lifelong partner, sorted by algorithm.
Created in its original form by Stanford students in 2017, the questionnaire is marketed as a “large-scale matching event that provides students with their optimal marital back-up plans.” The quiz — which circulated among Yale students last week and closed on Tuesday afternoon— paired around 1,300 potential couples on Tuesday evening.
If you and your classmate are still without prospects after a certain length of time, you can agree to simply marry each other.
Do you shake on it?
Unlikely. Though, if things don’t pan out, you’ll have another shot next year.
While Marriage Pact campus representative Lekha Sunder ’23 said that she was “not really expecting anyone to get married,” she added that “the algorithm gives you a chance to meet someone you’re compatible with, at a time when that’s very difficult.”
Building meaningful relationships without precedent can be especially difficult during the pandemic, Sunder said.
It proved a convincing sell to several thousands of her peers.
2,756 students filled out the form — 45 percent of Yale’s undergraduate body. The figure was just shy of the 50 percent goal the two campus representatives, Sunder and Li Mei Vera ’23, set for themselves.
According to Sunder, the form also doubled as a valuable social experiment.
“It’s a good opportunity to see how social interactions are playing out in this environment, and gauge what matters and what doesn’t matter when reaching out to people,” Sunder said.
Due to a skewed respondent group, the last 151 heterosexual women to fill out the form went unmatched.
“Basically, straight women really love shit like this,” Sunder said, pointing to a deficit in the number of heterosexual men as compared to heterosexual women who filled out the survey.
Karen Wang ’24 filled out the form just for “giggles” but was surprised to find out on Tuesday night that, according to the algorithm, she and her match were 21 percent compatible according to the algorithm — a low percentage compared to the higher scores her friends and their matches received.
“I’m not mad about it,” Wang said. “It’s just interesting to see the demographics of Yale manifest in a very different way here.”
Although the dating industry is highly saturated with different services and apps, including some that have made their rounds at Yale — like the algorithm-based Datamatch and last spring’s Orbit.co — Sunder said the Marriage Pact’s questions are “intentionally not as vapid as those on typical dating sites.”
Questions run from exploring a respondee’s sexual, political and religious identities to assessing lifestyle choices and value systems. Examples of statements related to these questions include “it’s okay that my partner does harder drugs” and “how long do you wait to have sex when you start seeing someone?”
Certain questions may matter more to some students than others, Sunder explained. The survey accommodated this by asking participants to rank the questions most important to them.
“Filling out the form was fun,” Ananya Rajagopalan ’24 wrote to the News. “The questions seemed pretty chill and I felt like I was able to communicate who I was well!”
Yale’s version of the Marriage Pact is based on an algorithm developed by Stanford graduates Sophia Sterling-Angus and Liam McGregor, who first designed the Marriage Pact as their final project for a class on market design. Inspired by a classic challenge in economics called “the stable marriage problem,” the two students launched their survey, expecting a hundred participants at most. They received, instead, more than 4,000 responses.
Since appearing at Stanford in 2017, the Marriage Pact has circulated among other universities, including Oxford and Cornell. Although preset questions — developed by the Stanford duo and recycled across campuses — comprise the majority of the pact, Sunder and Vera had an opportunity to vet some questions tailored to the Yale community.
The pact’s informal data policy notes that all information a participant provides is completely voluntary and assures that the form cannot track user accounts. According to the policy, aside from contact information shared between matches, data is not sold or shared in a way that could make a participant identifiable.
The survey leaves it up to matches to contact one another. And should matches be interested in meeting in-person, the algorithm accounts for that, too, by asking participants to volunteer their rough geographic location.
Lisbette Acosta ’24 said that she filled out the form largely out of curiosity.
“I think it’s fascinating involving statistics and something that’s hard to quantify like love,” Acosta said. “Merging them — I think that’s fascinating, and I want to be a part of the experiment.”
Other students driven away from campus because of pandemic circumstances are hopeful that the pact will offer them a chance to meet new classmates.
Howard Shi ’25, who is currently on a gap year, said the pact helps him seek out peers that are much harder to meet through his internships.
Both Shi and Acosta said that they do not have high expectations for long-term relationships with their matches but were nevertheless curious to see how the algorithm determines their partners.
73 percent of Stanford’s student body completed the pact last year.
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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove identifying information that a source later requested not be disclosed to the public.