Why Have Americans Changed Their Minds about Premarital Sex?

  •  George Clarke    


Since the turn of the new millennium, Americans’ views about sex have become more socially liberal. The percent of Americans who disapproved of pre-marital sex fell by 14 percentage points between 2002 and 2014 and the percent who disapproved of sex between same-sex couples fell by 18 percentage points. In this paper, we ask whether demographic changes can explain these trends. We find generational shifts between people born in the early and later part of the 20th century can explain about 30 percent of the change. Other demographic changes, including decreased religiosity and marital rates, explain an extra 10 to 15 percent of the change. Because these demographic changes will probably continue, Americans’ views on these issues will probably become even more liberal in future decades.

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