Objectives: This study sought to examine the effects of government policies and neighborhood characteristics on adolescent female sexual behavior to better inform future public policy decisions.
Methods: Using a bivariate probit model and National Survey of Family Growth data on women aged 15 through 19 years, we estimated the probabilities of their being sexually active and, if sexually active, of their using contraceptives.
Results: Variables measuring the cost of obtaining an abortion are not good predictors of sexual activity or contraceptive use. However, the relationship between family planning availability and contraceptive use is statistically significant at conventional levels.
Conclusions: Policymakers seem to have little leverage with regard to influencing the decision to become sexually active, although increased access to family planning services may encourage responsible contraceptive behavior. Neighborhood context is an important determinant of adolescent female sexual behavior.