The Effects of Early Sex on Education Attainment: Detailed Mechanisms

Nicole Steward, Pennsylvania State University
George Farkas, Pennsylvania State University

We analyze data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) to examine the educational attainment consequences of very early (prior to age 15) sexual intercourse for females. Early sex has been associated with poor academic performance, a propensity for risk, and may also signal early transition into adult roles. We examine the effect of early sex, after controlling for contemporaneous academic performance, on on-time high school graduation, timely college enrollment, and college degree completion. Additionally, we investigate the roles of subsequent milestones, including first marriage and childbirth, on the pathways to degree attainment. Our results indicate that the impact of early sex on educational attainment is not merely due to its correlation with early educational performance or family formation. Rather, it appears that the differences found in the educational pathways of these young women are due to a behavior change associated with early sex.

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Presented in Poster Session 3