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Suburban students are just as likely as their urban counterparts to have sex, smoke, drink, use illegal drugs and engage in delinquent behavior, according to a new study.

Many parents have fled urban schools seeking a safer and more wholesome environment for their children, but the Manhattan Institute says its survey indicates families face similar issues in the suburbs.

The study, “Sex, Drugs, and Delinquency in Urban and Suburban Public Schools,” was authored by institute Senior Fellow Jay P. Greene and Senior Research Associate Greg Forster. The results are based on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and other federal agencies.

The survey is considered a breakthrough for research on adolescent behavior because the students’ privacy was protected by allowing them to listen to the questions through headphones and enter their answers on laptop computers.

Highlights of the study include:

  • Urban and suburban schools are virtually identical in terms of widespread sexual activity. Two-thirds of all suburban and urban 12th graders have had sex; 43 percent of suburban 12th graders and 39 percent of urban 12th graders have had sex with a person with whom they did not have a romantic relationship.

  • Pregnancy rates are high in both suburban and urban schools, although they are higher in urban schools; 14 percent of suburban 12th grade girls and 20 percent of urban 12th grade girls have been pregnant.

  • Over 60 percent of suburban 12th graders have tried cigarette smoking, compared to 54 percent of urban 12th graders; 37 percent of suburban 12th graders have smoked at least once a day for at least 30 days, compared to 30 percent of urban 12th graders.

  • Alcohol use followed a similar pattern; 74 percent of suburban 12th graders and 71 percent of urban 12th graders have tried alcohol more than two or three times; 63 percent of suburban 12th graders and 57 percent of urban 12th graders drink without family members present; 22 percent of suburban 12th graders and 16 percent of urban 12th graders have driven while drunk.

  • About four out of ten 12th graders in both urban and suburban schools have used illegal drugs; 20 percent of suburban 12th graders and 13 percent of urban 12th graders have driven while high on drugs.

  • Urban and suburban students are about equally likely to engage in other delinquent behaviors such as fighting and stealing.


NOTE: The December 2003 edition of WND’s acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine, from which this article is excerpted, is titled “KILLER CULTURE,” and is available at WND’s online store.

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