This study examines black-white and other sociodemographic differences in young women’s sexual and contraceptive behaviors, using new longitudinal data from a weekly journal-based study of 1,003 18- to 19-year-old women spanning 2.5 years. We investigate hypotheses about dynamic processes in these behaviors during early adulthood in order to shed light on persisting racial differences in rates of unintended pregnancies in the United States. We find that net of other sociodemographic characteristics and adolescent experiences with sex and pregnancy, black women spent less time in relationships and had sex less frequently in their relationships than white women, but did not differ in the number of relationships they formed or in their frequency or consistency of contraceptive use within relationships. Black women were more likely to use less effective methods for pregnancy prevention (e.g., condoms) than white women, who tended to use more effective methods (e.g., oral contraceptives). And although the most effective method for pregnancy prevention-long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)-was used more often by black women than white women, LARC use was low in both groups. In addition, black women did not differ from white women in their number of discontinuations or different methods used and had fewer contraceptive method switches. Further, we find that net of race and adolescent experiences with sex and pregnancy, women from more-disadvantaged backgrounds had fewer and longer (and thus potentially more serious) relationships, used contraception less frequently (but not less consistently), and used less effective methods (condoms) than women from more-advantaged backgrounds.
Black-White Differences in Sex and Contraceptive Use Among Young Women.