Social Multipliers in Sexual Initiation Decisions Among U.S. High School Students

Demography, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 373-388

17 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2008 Last revised: 3 Sep 2008

See all articles by Jason M. Fletcher

Jason M. Fletcher

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs; Yale University - School of Public Health

Date Written: May 1, 2007

Abstract

In this article, I use a national sample of high school students to test for several types of social infl uences on the decision to have sexual intercourse. I find evidence of endogenous social interactions (social multipliers), where the propensity of an individual choosing to have sex varies with the average behavior in his or her school. Additionally, the magnitude of the social multipliers and several other interesting risk factors differ by gender and by race. These findings might help explain the large variation in sexual initiation across schools in the United States. These results also add to the debate over school vouchers and ability grouping because social multipliers imply changes in schoolwide rates of sexual behavior with moderate changes in school-body composition. In this way, school vouchers and ability grouping might exacerbate the situation of high rates of teenage pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births in some communities. To show the potential benefi ts and costs of public policies that cause students to change schools, I present the results of several simulation exercises that predict the school-level changes in rates of sexual initiation following changes in school composition.

Keywords: Sexual Initiation, Peer Effects

JEL Classification: J13, I10

Suggested Citation

Fletcher, Jason M., Social Multipliers in Sexual Initiation Decisions Among U.S. High School Students (May 1, 2007). Demography, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 373-388. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1261574

Jason M. Fletcher (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs ( email )

1180 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1393
United States

Yale University - School of Public Health ( email )

PO Box 208034
60 College Street
New Haven, CT 06520-8034
United States

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