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Social Norms and Sexual Activity in U.S. High Schools

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  • Edward Castronova

Abstract

This paper estimates a formal model of social norms with multiple equilibria using data from the Add-Health Survey of 20,000 U.S. high school students. The results suggest that there is considerable diversity in social norm equilibria, with some schools enforcing norms against sexual activity and others not doing so. The rate of sexual activity is about 5 percent lower in schools with norm-enforcing equilibria, suggesting that social norm effects are neither trivial nor decisive. Still, the most consistently significant factor affecting teen sexual activity is not the social environment or the school, but rather the family.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward Castronova, 2004. "Social Norms and Sexual Activity in U.S. High Schools," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(4).
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:39:y:2004:i:4:p912-937
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kuran, Timur, 1991. "The East European Revolution of 1989: Is It Surprising That We Were Surprised?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 121-125, May.
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    3. Case, A.C. & Katz, L.F., 1991. "The Company You Keep: The Effects Of Family And Neighborhood On Disadvantaged Younths," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1555, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    4. Charles F. Manski, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 531-542.
    5. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen & Michael L. Katz, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317.
    6. V. Joseph Hotz & Charles H. Mullin & Seth G. Sanders, 1997. "Bounding Causal Effects Using Data from a Contaminated Natural Experiment: Analysing the Effects of Teenage Childbearing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(4), pages 575-603.
    7. Gerald S. Oettinger, 1999. "The Effects of Sex Education on Teen Sexual Activity and Teen Pregnancy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(3), pages 606-635, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fahr, René, 2006. "The Wage Effects of Social Norms: Evidence of Deviations from Peers’ Body-Mass in Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 2323, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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