The Role of Sexual Education in the Decline in Teen Births

Nicholas Mark , New York University
Lawrence L. Wu, New York University (NYU)

The teen birth rate in the United States has fallen precipitously in the past few decades. During this time, state and federal policy has oscillated between support for abstinence-only and comprehensive sexual education. In this paper, we provide national estimates of the role this investment in sexual education played in the decline in teen births. We leverage cross-state differences in the timing of sexual education implementation and use fixed effects and difference-in-differences specifications to obtain estimates of the causal effect of abstinence-only and comprehensive sexual education on teen births. Our results for abstinence-only education confirm previous null findings, but we also find that comprehensive sexual education played a causal role in decreasing the teen birth rate in the 2000's. While specific magnitudes vary with model specification, we find that comprehensive sexual education reduced the teen birth rate in affected counties by somewhere between 1 and 3%.


 Presented in Session 60. Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health