Purpose Updated estimates of adolescents' receipt of sex education are needed to monitor trends and potential inequities.
Methods Using nationally representative data from the 2011–2015 and 2015–2019 National Survey of Family Growth, we use logistic regression to examine changes in the receipt of formal sex education by gender. For 2015–2019, we estimate patterns by gender and race/ethnicity for content, timing, and location of instruction.
Results Between 2011–2015 and 2015–2019, there were few significant changes in adolescents' receipt of formal sex education. Between these periods, instruction on waiting until marriage to have sex declined (73%–67% female [F.], p = .005; 70%–58% males [M.], p < .001). In both the periods, about half of the adolescents received sex education that meets the minimum standard articulated in national goals. In 2015–2019, there were significant gender differences in the instruction about waiting until marriage to have sex (67% F., 58% M., p < 001) and condom skills (55% F., 60% M., p = .003). Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic males were less likely than non-Hispanic White males to receive formal instruction before the first sex on sexually transmitted infection/HIV, birth control, or where to get birth control. Many adolescents reported religious settings as the sources of instruction about waiting until marriage to have sex (56% F. and 49% M.), but almost none received instruction about birth control from those settings.
Conclusions Differences in the receipt of sex education, by gender, race/ethnicity, and the location of instruction, leave many adolescents without critical information. Gaps in meeting national objectives indicate the need to expand the provision of sex education.