Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Catherine Berheide


Researchers and policy makers have looked at many factors that result in high teen birth rates, most notably sex education in public schools. Most often sex education policies fall to the state government, resulting in vast differences in policy across the US. In this study I look at two different approaches to sex education: programs in which abstinence is stressed and programs that include information on contraception. Using the Guttmacher Institute’s evaluation of state sex education laws (2015) and The National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy’s teen birthrates (2015), I have compiled a data set that allows a state-by-state analysis of sex education policies and teen birthrate outcomes. I have also considered the influence of the state’s political leaning on the variables by coding states that voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election as conservative. The findings suggest that controlling for sex education, conservative states have higher teen birthrates. While there appears to be a relationship between the type of sex education and teen birthrate, when conservative is controlled for the relationship disappears. Conservative states have higher teen birthrates than liberal states across all racial categories. Additionally, conservative states were more likely to stress abstinence in their sex education than include information on contraception. Finally, stressing abstinence in sex education has no effect on teen birthrates, while including information on contraception only has an effect on reducing the birthrate for Black teens. It appears that conservative politics may be a better indicator of teen birthrates than sex education requirements.