New Data Shows Teen Sex is Declining to Historic Lows

National   |   Michael New Ph.D.   |   Feb 15, 2023   |   7:47PM   |   Washington, DC

The newly released 2021 data from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) has received a great deal of attention this week. Many media outlets have reported on the disturbing increase in the percentage of teenagers who said they had seriously considered attempting suicide. There is certainly much in this report that is concerning. However, the report contains some positive news as well. For instance, new data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that the long-term decline in teen sexual activity continues.

Between 2019 and 2021, the percentage of high-school students who reported “ever having sex” fell from 38 percent to 30 percent — a decline of eight percentage points. During the same time period, there was a six-point decline in the percentage of high-school students said they were “sexually active” and a three-point decline in the percentage who reported four or more sexual partners.

Of course, It possible that the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in this decline. However, YRBS data indicate that there has been a long-term decline in teen sexual activity. Overall, since 2010, the percentage of high-school students who ever had sex has fallen by 17 percentage points. This includes a 20-point decline among high-school boys and a 15-point decline among high-school girls. Other YRBS survey questions also indicate that there have been long-term declines in teen sexual activity.

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Guttmacher Institute data indicate that between 1990 and 2017 there has been a whopping 73.6 percent decline in the teen-pregnancy rate in the U.S. Most of the mainstream media coverage of the decline has focused on increases in contraception use among teens. It is true that surveys indicate that sexually active teenagers have become likely to use contraception. However, data from both the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show a consistent, durable decline in teen sexual activity since the early 1990s. Contrary to what many on the left say, it is possible to create a more chaste culture among teenagers.

LifeNews Note: Michael New is a research associate at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America and is an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. he is a former professor at Ave maria University and University of Michigan, Dearborn.