David Bishai (School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University)
02/04/2008, at noon in room 6050 ISR-Thompson.
Objective: To assess the association between age at first sexual encounter and community exposure to Western norms and economic opportunity in a sample of 17016 youth age 15-24 surveyed in 2006.
Rationale: Asian societies blame Western culture for corrupting their youth by displaying poor role models in Western television, music, and websites. An alternative explanation is that the preservation of virginity is of less value to girls when economic opportunity provides a means to a secure future other than trading retained virginity for better prospects in the marriage market. Proper inference is confounded because exposure to Western culture and economic opportunity are correlated.
Methods: The Asian 3 City study of adolescent health surveyed 6,363; 6299, and 4,354 youth from Hanoi, Shanghai, and Taipei respectively. The sample maintained PSU sizes with an average of over 78 respondents per neighborhoods so that non-self means of reported exposure to Western culture and of economic opportunity could be computed. Multivariate Cox hazard models estimated the determinants of the time to first sex. The independent variables of most interest were the neighborhood mean of scale reflecting exposure to Western movies, music and TV shows and the neighborhood mean assessment of the economic prospects in the community. Multivariate analysis controlled for urbanicity, household income, and education. This paper reports on results for girls only.
Results: Median age at first sex for girls was 20 in Hanoi and Shanghai and 18 in Taipei. The hazards ratios for Western cultural exposure were 0.42 (p<0.01), 1.02 (NS), and 0.15 (p<0.05) in Taipei, Shanghai, and Hanoi respectively. Hazard ratios for economic opportunity were 1.36 (p<0.10), 1.29 (NS), and 0.96 (NS). Higher class rank in school was a significant predictor of earlier sex in Hanoi and Taipei, but not Shanghai. Additional analysis is ongoing.
Conclusions: I find no evidence that living in a neighborhood where youth are heavily exposed to Western music, movies, and TV shows leads to earlier engagement in sexual intercourse in 3 large Asian cities. Personal, but not community markers of economic opportunity accelerate teenagers’ age of first sex.