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The Sexual Activity and Birth-Control Use of American Teenagers

In: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis

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  • Phillip B. Levine

Abstract

This paper evaluates the evidence regarding teens' sexual activity and birth control use with an emphasis on the contribution of economic analysis. For non-economists, teen sexual activity is often considered spontaneous and irrational, and pregnancies are viewed as mistakes.' Alternatively an economic framework, which focuses on the costs and benefits of alternative actions and utilizes more sophisticated statistical methods, can be applied to these decisions' as well. After documenting recent trends, I review prior economic and non-economic research regarding the determinants of these activities. Economic models differ in that they predict unprotected sexual activity will decline if its costs, broadly-defined, increase. After presenting evidence documenting who engages in sexual activity and uses birth control, I report an analysis of state-level data over time that examines whether changes in costs are related to changes in these behaviors. The results support the notion that costs matter. The final section reviews the evidence regarding the impact of teen child-bearing on women's subsequent well-being to examine the magnitude of its cost.
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Suggested Citation

  • Phillip B. Levine, 2001. "The Sexual Activity and Birth-Control Use of American Teenagers," NBER Chapters,in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 167-218 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10689
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    1. Arline Geronimus & Sanders Korenman, 1993. "The socioeconomic costs of teenage childbearing: Evidence and interpretation," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 30(2), pages 281-290, May.
    2. Robert W. Fairlie & Rebecca A. London, 1997. "The effect of incremental benefit levels on births to AFDC recipients," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(4), pages 575-597.
    3. Matthew Rabin & Ted O'Donoghue, 1999. "Doing It Now or Later," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 103-124, March.
    4. Deborah Haas-Wilson, 1996. "The Impact of State Abortion Restrictions on Minors' Demand for Abortions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(1), pages 140-158.
    5. Saul Hoffman & E. Foster & Frank Furstenberg, 1993. "Reevaluating the costs of teenage childbearing: Response to Geronimus and Korenman," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 30(2), pages 291-296, May.
    6. Lundberg, Shelly & Plotnick, Robert D, 1995. "Adolescent Premarital Childbearing: Do Economic Incentives Matter?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 177-200, April.
    7. 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.
    8. Blank, Rebecca M. & George, Christine C. & London, Rebecca A., 1996. "State abortion rates the impact of policies, providers, politics, demographics, and economic environment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 513-553, October.
    9. Avner Ahituv & V. Joseph Hotz & Tomas Philipson, 1996. "The Responsiveness of the Demand for Condoms to the Local Prevalence of AIDS," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(4), pages 869-897.
    10. Matthews, S. & Ribar, D. & Wilhelm, M., 1995. "The Effects of Economic Conditions and Access to Reproductive Health Services on State Abortion and Birth Rates," Papers 7-95-4, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
    11. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas Staiger, 1996. "Teen Motherhood and Abortion Access," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 467-506.
    12. Ann E. Horvath-Rose & H. Elizabeth Peters, 2000. "Welfare Waivers and Non-Marital Childbearing," JCPR Working Papers 128, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    13. Levine, Phillip B. & Trainor, Amy B. & Zimmerman, David J., 1996. "The effect of Medicaid abortion funding restrictions on abortions, pregnancies and births," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 555-578, October.
    14. Susan L. Averett & Daniel I. Rees & Laura M. Argys, 2000. "Welfare generosity, pregnancies and abortions among unmarried AFDC recipients," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 13(4), pages 569-594.
    15. Arleen Leibowitz & Winston Chow & Marvin Eisen, 1986. "An economic model of teenage pregnancy decision-making," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 23(1), pages 67-77, February.
    16. 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.
    17. Diane J. Macunovich, 1995. "The Butz-Ward Fertility Model in the Light of More Recent Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(2), pages 229-255.
    18. Joshua D. Angrist & William N. Evans, 1996. "Schooling and Labor Market Consequences of the 1970 State Abortion Reforms," NBER Working Papers 5406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Arline T. Geronimus & Sanders Korenman, 1992. "The Socioeconomic Consequences of Teen Childbearing Reconsidered," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(4), pages 1187-1214.
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    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics

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