Economic Benefits of Delayed Sexual Activity

Economic Benefits of Delayed Sexual Activity

OPRE Report #2021-22
Published: Feb 28, 2021
Publisher: Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Key Findings
  • The economic benefits of delayed sexual activity vary depending on the population examined, age cutoff used to define delay in sexual activity, perspective from which benefits are evaluated, and assumptions used for the analysis. In particular:
    • Estimated benefits are consistently higher for females than for males.
    • The results show no clear pattern based on the age cutoff used to define delayed sexual activity.
    • Benefits are greatest from the perspective of society as a whole. For the most part, these benefits accrue primarily to the individual adolescents who choose to delay sex. Other taxpayers accrue a smaller net benefit.
    • As expected, more stringent assumptions yield smaller estimates of net benefits.
  • Choosing a couple of specific examples, using less stringent assumptions, from the perspective of society, the analysis indicates:
    • A net benefit of $43,437 for females and $26,204 for males from delaying voluntary sexual activity to age 18 or later.
    • A net benefit of $64,707 for females, and no benefit for males, from delaying voluntary sexual activity until the age of first marriage.
    • Using more stringent assumptions for the analysis reduces the estimates by 78 to 100 percent.
  • Reductions in teen pregnancy and unintended pregnancy in adulthood account for some—but not all—of the estimated net benefits.

The avoidance of sexual activity among youth not only prevents unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections but can also promote healthy outcomes and contribute to the positive development of youth. Research has shown, in particular, that delayed initiation of sexual intercourse can lead to increases in high school graduation, short-term gains in mental health, and improved relationship quality in early adulthood. Economic analysis is a method to calculate the potential savings and costs tied to changes in specific policies, programs, or behaviors and can summarize the overall net benefit of delayed sexual initiation.

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