Demographic Differences in Access to Formal Sex Education in the United States
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This paper examines differences in access to formal sex education among adolescents in the United States by demographic characteristics. Previous research has found disparities in access to sex education by demographic, though this issue has not been examined thoroughly in recent years (Kohler, Manhart, and Lafferty 2008; Lindberg, Maddow-Zimet, and Boonstra 2016; Lindberg, Santelli, and Singh 2006). Research has additionally suggested that variation in average age at first sexual experience explains the different rates at which different demographic groups report receiving sex education before first sex (Lindberg, Ku, and Sonenstein 2000; Lindberg et al. 2016). Due to a lack of available data, researchers have been unable to distinguish between the different messages adolescents receive about delaying sexual activity. In this study, I describe demographic predictors of receipt of formal sex education using logistic regression models. I consider timing of sex education relative to first sex as it differs by demographic group. I also examine differences between adolescents who report learning “how to say no to sex” and those who report learning about “waiting until marriage to have sex.” I find consistently low rates of receipt of education about safe sex practices such as where to obtain birth control and how to use a condom. The lowest rates of formal sex education are among females, low-income adolescents, and those who do not complete high school.