Evaluation of Abstinence Education Programs

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
College students sitting on steps

In 1996, Congress authorized $50 million annually for five years to states for abstinence education programs. Beginning in 2005, an additional $13 million was allocated to grantees providing abstinence education. Programs receiving these funds taught abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for school-age children and could not endorse or promote contraceptive use. 

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Secretary, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation commissioned Mathematica to conduct a congressionally mandated evaluation of the effectiveness of abstinence education programs.

Mathematica’s comprehensive nine-year abstinence education evaluation used the most rigorous, scientifically based approach to measure program impacts.

The evaluation addressed the following questions: What were the nature and underlying theories of the abstinence education programs supported with Section 510 funding? What were the implementation and operational experiences of local communities and schools that received abstinence education funding? What were the impacts of abstinence education programs? How successful were they in changing the knowledge, attitudes, and intentions of youth? How successful were they in reducing teen sexual activity among youth? How did they change the risk of pregnancy and STDs?

Read the case study.