A new study on teen sex is likely to confound both proponents and critics of sex education programs. Researchers studying a survey of 1,300 unmarried females aged 15 to 19 found no association between their sexual activity or contraceptive use and their participation in public school sex ed classes. Neighborhood characteristics such as household income were much more important.
"Broad state mandates with regard to classroom content are not an effective means by which to encourage the adoption of 'safer sex' practices," the researchers wrote in the November American Journal of Public Health. But they also noted that sex ed doesn't appear to encourage sexual activity, a chief concern among conservative critics.
As for other sex-related programs supported by the government, neither the availability of subsidized abortions nor the presence of family planning clinics was found to influence whether the girls had sex. But girls in neighborhoods with clinics were more likely to use contraceptives.
"Although increased access to family planning services may encourage responsible contraceptive behavior," the study's authors concluded, "policymakers seem to have little leverage with regard to influencing the decision to become sexually active."