Sexual Activity and Contraceptive Use

Narrative

In 2013, 46.8 percent of students in grades 9‐12 reported having had sexual intercourse at least once during their lifetime. While this self-reported prevalence among high school students has not changed significantly from 2011 (47.4 percent), there has been a sustained decrease since 1991, when 54.1 percent of high school students reported ever having had sexual intercourse.1

Among all students, a similar number of male and female high school students reported having ever had sex (47.5 and 46.0 percent, respectively). With respect to race and ethnicity, 60.6 percent of non-Hispanic Black high school students reported having ever had sexual intercourse, compared to 49.2 percent of Hispanic, 43.7 percent of non-Hispanic White, and 22.6 percent of non-Hispanic Asian high school students (Figure 1). The proportion of students who reported having had sexual intercourse increased with grade level: 30.0 percent of 9th-grade students had done so, compared to 41.4 percent of 10th-graders, 54.1 percent of 11th-graders, and 64.1 percent of 12th-graders.

sexual activity by race

Figure 1 Source

Overall, 34.0 percent of students reported current sexual activity, defined as sexual intercourse with at least one person during the past 3 months. Among those students who reported current sexual activity, 40.9 percent reported not using a condom (whether they or their partner wore it) during their last intercourse (Figure 2). With regard to sex, 46.9 percent of females reported not using a condom, compared to 34.2 percent of males. Additionally, female students were more likely than male students to report that no method to prevent pregnancy had been used (by themselves or partners) during their last intercourse (15.7 and 11.5 percent, respectively). With regard to grade level, the proportion of sexually active students to report not using a condom was highest among 12th-graders (47.0 percent).

lack of contraceptive use by high school students

Figure 2 Source

Contraceptive use is a key component to reducing unintended pregnancies,2 and the majority of pregnancies occurring to adolescents are unintended.3 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020 campaign includes national goals to increase the proportion of adolescents aged 17 years and younger who have never had sexual intercourse, reduce the number of pregnancies among adolescent females, increase the proportion of births that are intended, and increase contraceptive use among females who are at risk of unintended pregnancy.4

Data Sources

Figure 1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Accessed September 20, 2014.

Figure 2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Accessed September 20, 2014.

Endnotes

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2013 (PDF). Morbidity and Mortal Weekly Report. June 13, 2014;63(4). Accessed September 20, 2014.

2 Guttmacher Institute. Preventing unintended pregnancy: the need and the means. The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy. December 2003;6(5). Accessed September 20, 2014.

3 Finer LB, Zolna MR. Shifts in intended and unintended pregnancies in the United States, 2001–2008 (PDF). American Journal of Public Health. 2014;104(S1):S44–S48. Accessed September 20, 2014.

4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2020 Topics & Objectives: Maternal, Infant, and Child Health. Accessed September 20, 2014.

Data

Statistical Significance Test

Calculate the difference between two estimates:

Calculated Z-Test Result 0.9567433 Not statistically significant

We follow statistical conventions in defining a significant difference by a p-value less than 0.05 where there is a less than 5% probability of observing a difference of that magnitude or greater by chance alone if there were really no difference between estimates. The 95% confidence interval includes a plausible range of values for the observed difference; 95% of random samples would include the true difference with fewer than 5% of random samples failing to capture the true difference.

This website allows comparisons between two estimates using the independent z-test for differences in rates or proportions. This test is appropriate for comparing independent populations across years (e.g., 2011 versus 2012) or subgroups (e.g., Male versus Female) on corresponding measures. To the extent possible, the functionality of this application has limited estimate comparisons based on appropriate use of the independent z-test. However, some tables present subgroup categories within broader categories that will allow comparisons between non-independent populations (e.g., low birth weight and very low birth weight). Users should exercise caution when interpreting these test results, which will frequently overstate statistical significance.

For some tables, the website does not allow for comparisons between two estimates, even though the data represent independent populations. Generally, this is because the standard errors were not publicly available at the time this website was created.

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