Racial Differences in Age at First Sexual Intercourse: Residential Racial Segregation and the Black-White Disparity Among U.S. Adolescents

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The age of adolescents at first sexual intercourse is an important risk factor for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and adolescent pregnancy. Black adolescents are at higher risk than white adolescents for first sexual intercourse at younger ages as well as STDs and pregnancy. Individual- and family-level factors do not fully explain this disparity. We examined whether five dimensions of black-white residential racial segregation can help explain the racial disparity in age at first sexual intercourse.


Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 and U.S. Census 2000 data, we performed multiple hierarchical discrete time-to-event analyses on a nationally representative cohort of adolescents followed since 1997. Although the cohort study is ongoing, we used data from 1997 through 2005.


Concentration and unevenness significantly modified the association of race and age at first sexual intercourse. However, stratified results suggested differences in the effect of race on age at first sexual intercourse at each level of segregation across dimensions of segregation.


Residential racial segregation may modify the black-white disparity in risk of first sexual intercourse at younger ages, but these associations are complex. Future studies should be conducted to elucidate the causal mechanisms.

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