Turn now to the United States, where the Federal Government has spent upwards of $1 billion over the last decade on abstinence-only sex education. (Call it defensive dating.) The idea is that not teaching students about contraception, safe sex, etc., will lead to better outcomes, including less unwanted pregnancies and fewer sexually transmitted diseases.
Except … it turns out that teenagers are circumventing their abstinence education and having sex anyway. Studies have repeatedly shown that abstinence-only students have almost the same number of sexual partners, and have sex almost as early, as students who receive traditional sex ed. In fact, abstinence-only programs may actually increase the risk of STDs and unintentional teen pregnancies. That’s because those abstinence-only students who do have sex tend to be less likely to use protection.
That’s one of the reasons why New York State recently canceled its abstinence-only program, passing up millions of dollars in Federal aid. Congress nevertheless appears ready to continue funding for similar programs. Maybe abstinence-only would work better if the classes were administered by one of those stern South African driving examiners.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The Freakonomics Blog has an excellent post on abstinence education.