Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. SD 4.2 Sexually Active Teens

01/01/2000

Having become sexually experienced does not necessarily mean teenagers will be sexually active from that point on. They may still abstain from intercourse out of concern for the risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases or a preference for abstinence, or they may experience periods in which they do not have a sexual partner; nevertheless, research indicates that once a person has had sex, he or she is likely to continue to be sexually active. Among young adults ages 18 through 22 who had ever had intercourse, over 70 percent had a second experience of intercourse within 6 months of first intercourse.69

The percentage of teens in grades 9 through 12 who are sexually active—defined as having had sexual intercourse in the previous 3 months—has remained steady, with little variation, from 1991 to 1996 (see Table SD 4.2).

Differences by Gender. There is no difference between the percentages of male and female students who are sexually active. In 1999, 36 percent of males and 36 percent of females reported being sexually active.

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin.70 In 1999, black students were, at 53 percent, more likely than either white (33 percent) or Hispanic (36 percent) students to be sexually active (see Figure SD 4.2).

Differences by Grade. The percentage of teens who are sexually active rises as grade increases. Twelfth-grade students are nearly twice as likely to be sexually active as are 9th-grade students (see Table SD 4.2).

 

69 Moore, K.A., & Peterson, J.L. August 1989. The Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy. Final Report to NICHD and ASPE/HHS, Grant No. HD 21537.
70 Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.

 

Table SD 4.2 Percentage of students grades 9 through 12 in the United States who reported having had sexual intercourse in the previous 3 months, by gender, race and Hispanic origin, grade, and age: 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1999

  1991 1993 1995 1997 1999
Total 38 38 38 35 36
Gender
Male 37 38 36 33 36
Female 38 38 40 37 36
Race and Hispanic origina
White 34 34 35 32 33
Black 59 59 54 54 53
Hispanic 37 39 39 35 36
Grade
Ninth 22 25 24 24 27
Tenth 33 30 34 29 33
Eleventh 43 40 42 38 38
Twelfth 51 53 50 46 51
Age
15 24 25 28 26 27
16 38 35 37 32 35
15 or 16 31 31 32 29 32

a Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Sources: Data for 1991: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1990-1991 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, Table 1, p. 78; data for 1993: Kann, et al., 1995. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 44 (SS-1): Table 20; data for 1995: Kann, et al., 1996, Table 26; data for 1997: Kann, et al., 1998, Table 26; and unpublished data from the Centers for Disease Control.

 

Figure SD 4.2 Percentage of youth in grades 9 through 12 in the United States who reported having had sexual intercourse in the previous 3 months, by race and Hispanic origin: a 1999

a Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Source: Kann, et al., 1998, Table 26.
 

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