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Educational Attainment by Life Course Sexual Attraction: Prevalence and Correlates in a Nationally Representative Sample of Young Adults

Abstract

Researchers know relatively little about the educational attainment of sexual minorities, despite the fact that educational attainment is consistently associated with a range of social, economic, and health outcomes. We examined whether sexual attraction in adolescence and early adulthood was associated with educational attainment in early adulthood among a nationally representative sample of US young adults. We analyzed waves I and IV restricted data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (n = 14,111). Sexual orientation was assessed using self-reports of romantic attraction in waves I (adolescence) and IV (adulthood). Multinomial regression models were estimated and all analyses were stratified by gender. Women attracted to the same-sex in adulthood only had lower educational attainment compared to women attracted only to the opposite-sex in adolescence and adulthood. Men attracted to the same-sex in adolescence only had lower educational attainment compared to men attracted only to the opposite-sex in adolescence and adulthood. Adolescent experiences and academic performance attenuated educational disparities among men and women. Adjustment for adolescent experiences also revealed a suppression effect; women attracted to the same-sex in adolescence and adulthood had lower predicted probabilities of having a high school diploma or less compared to women attracted only to the opposite-sex in adolescence and adulthood. Our findings challenge previous research documenting higher educational attainment among sexual minorities in the US. Additional population-based studies documenting the educational attainment of sexual-minority adults are needed.

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Correspondence to Katrina M. Walsemann.

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Walsemann, K.M., Lindley, L.L., Gentile, D. et al. Educational Attainment by Life Course Sexual Attraction: Prevalence and Correlates in a Nationally Representative Sample of Young Adults. Popul Res Policy Rev 33, 579–602 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-013-9288-3

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Keywords

  • Sexual minority
  • Life course
  • Socio-demographics
  • Education