Race and Social Problems

, Volume 4, Issue 3–4, pp 158–170 | Cite as

Race-Ethnic Differences in Sexual Health Knowledge



Despite extensive research examining the correlates of unintended fertility, it remains a puzzle as to why racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to experience an unintended birth than non-Hispanic whites. This paper focuses on sexual literacy, a potential precursor of unintended fertility. Analyses use a unique dataset of unmarried young adults aged 18–29, the 2009 Survey of Unmarried Young Adults’ Contraceptive Knowledge and Practices, to examine beliefs regarding pregnancy risks, pregnancy fatalism, and contraceptive side effects. At the bivariate level, foreign-born Hispanics hold more erroneous beliefs about the risk of pregnancy than other groups, and non-Hispanic blacks are more likely to believe in contraceptive side effects than non-Hispanic whites. Both foreign-born Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to hold a fatalistic view toward pregnancy. Race-ethnic differences are attenuated for pregnancy misperceptions and fatalism in multivariate models controlling for sources of health information, sexual and fertility experiences, and sociodemographic characteristics. However, non-Hispanic blacks remain more likely than non-Hispanic whites to believe there is a high chance of reduced sexual desire and serious health consequences when using hormonal contraceptives. These differences may contribute to race-ethnic variation in contraceptive use and, ultimately, unintended fertility.


Health knowledge Reproductive health Unintended fertility Race-ethnic differences 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  2. 2.School of Social and Family DynamicsArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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