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Peer Effects in Sexual Initiation: Separating Demand and Supply Mechanisms

  • Seth Richards-Shubik

    ()

    (H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, Carnegie Mellon University)

Most work on social interactions studies a single, composite effect of interactions within a group. Yet in the case of sexual initiation, there are two distinct social mechanisms - peer-group norms and partner availability with separate effects and different potential interventions. Here I develop an equilibrium search and matching model for first sexual partners that specifies distinct roles for these two mechanisms as part of demand and supply. I estimate the model using a national sample of high school students, with data over time on individual virginity status. The results indicate that peer-group norms have a large effect on the timing of sexual initiation for both boys and girls. Changes in opposite-gender search behavior (i.e., partner availability) also have a large impact on initiation rates for boys, but not for girls. The existence of a composite effect of social interactions is also confirmed using a standard method: instrumental variables estimation of linear regressions.

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Paper provided by Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania in its series PIER Working Paper Archive with number 12-015.

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Length: 63 pages
Date of creation: 17 Jan 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:12-015
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