How have attitudes on premarital sex changed in the past century?
The last one hundred years have witnessed a revolution in sexual behavior. In 1900, only 6% of U.S. women would have engaged in premarital sex by age 19… Now, 75% have experienced this. Public acceptance of this practice reacted with delay. Only 15% of women in 1968 had a permissive attitude toward premarital sex. At the time, though, about 40%of 19 year-old females had experienced it. The number with a permissive attitude had jumped to 45% by 1983, a time when 73% of 19 year olds were sexually experienced. Thus, societal attitudes lagged practice. Beyond the evolution and acceptance of sexual behavior over time, there are relevant cross-sectional differences across females. In the U.S., the odds of a girl having premarital sex decline with family income. So, for instance, in the bottom decile 70% of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have experienced it, versus 47% in the top one. Similarly, 68% of adolescent girls whose family income lies in the upper quartile would feel “very upset”if they got pregnant, versus 46% of those whose family income is in the lower quartile.
Source: “From Shame to Game in One Hundred Years: An Economic Model of the Rise in Premarital Sex and its De-Stigmatization” from IZA DP No. 4708
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