Sex Education Statistics In The United States & Worldwide

In one study of university students, 58% reported that sexual education was lacking during their teen years, considering it poor.
split screen image featuring a map of the united states with highlights to depict where states that have mandated sex education on the left and a closeup face-free image of a high school student carrying books on the right
Updated:October 2023

There is always room for improvement when it comes to sex education in the United States.

In a study of university students, 58% of participants said that their sexual education was lacking in their teens, and considered it to be poor. [2]

Comprehensive sex education is incredibly important because it teaches teens about safe sex practices, STI prevention, and helps reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancies.

Sex education can also teach teens about their bodies, the efficacy of various birth control methods, sexual assault, and the meaning of consent.

Unfortunately, many states lack even basic sexual anatomy or health information, let alone comprehensive sex education.

Key Statistics To Know:

  • In the past decade, 25% to 50% of states have increased teaching about condoms for grades 6-12, including information about the importance of condoms, obtaining condoms, and using condoms. [1]
  • There is a higher percentage of schools teaching sex education topics in grades 9–12 compared to grades 6-8. [1]
  • In a study of university students, only 3.1% felt their sexual education was excellent. [2]
  • Poor sexual education is much more common, with 58% of university students believing their high school education was poor. [2]
  • Research evidence has found that funding for more comprehensive school-based sex education has resulted in a greater than 3% reduction in teen birth rates, on the county level. [4]

While school districts in the US seem to be getting better with more comprehensive sexual education for their students, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Through our research, we’ll share how (and where) sex education is taking place, trends over time, how parents feel about sex ed, and whether what teens are being taught in the US is adequate.

Where And How Is Sex Education Taught?

graphic map highlighting states that have mandated sex education in schools: washington, oregon, california, nevada, utah, montana, new mexico, texas, kansas, north dakota, minnesota, iowa, mississippi, tennessee, kentucky, ohio, west virginia, north carolina, south carolina, georgia, florida, washington dc, maryland, delaware, new jersey, rhode island, vermont, new hampshire, hawaii, and maine
  • There is a higher percentage of schools teaching sex education topics in grades 9–12 compared to grades 6-8, but generally, sex education begins between grades 6-9 in the classroom. [1]
  • According to the School Health Policies and Practices Study (SHPPS), teachers in the US have been providing an average of 6.2 total hours of sex education to their students in high school courses, with an average of less than 4 hours on HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy prevention. [11]
  • In middle school courses, teachers in the US provided an average of 5.4 total hours of sex education, with just over 2 hours on HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy prevention. [12]
  • Between 2008 and 2018, abstinence education decreased by 36.8% for grades 6-8 and 13.2% for grades 9-12. [1]

Dr. Susan Milstein, a sex educator on our medical review board, said of the discrepancy between the total average hours of sex education in middle school (5.4) versus 2 hours on HIV, STDs, and pregnancy prevention, that it “may be because the teachers are limited in what they are allowed to say.”

By comparison, adolescents typically spend far more hours learning how to drive than how to have safe and satisfying sex.

Both sex and driver’s education save lives!

bar graph depicting that 65% of girls and 53% of boys received sex education that covered abstinence as well as safe sex practices like condom use and birth control education
  • Only 65% of teen girls and 53% of teen boys received sex education that covered both abstinence and safe sex practices such as condom use and birth control education. [5]
  • Increased funding for comprehensive sex education has been directly linked with a 3% reduction in teen birth rates among Gen Z teenagers. [4]
  • Further research found evidence that comprehensive sexual education reduced teen pregnancy rates more than abstinence-only sexual education. [6]

This is not surprising, because while abstinence may be the right choice for some, education on contraception is necessary for those who engage in sexual activity to make informed choices.

donut chart depicting that annually, almost half of new sexually transmitted infections in the united states (26 million) occur among those aged 15 to 24
  • The CDC estimates that almost half of new STI infections in the US (26 million annually) occur among adolescents and young adults (ages 15-24). [7]
  • The type of sex education (whether abstinence-only or comprehensive) does not appear to influence STI rates. [6]

Parents’ Attitudes On Sex Education

donut graphic depicting that more than 93% of american parents place high importance on sex education for students in middle and high school
  • Among American parents, more than 93% “place high importance on sex education” for students in high school and middle school. [13]
  • For middle school students, specifically, 74.9% of parents reported that sex education was “very important” and 18.6% reported that it was “somewhat important.” Only 1.3% of parents felt that sex education at the middle school level was “not important.” [13]
  • 2.6% of parents surveyed felt that sex education “should not be taught in middle school” and 2.7% of parents felt that “sex education should not be taught at all.” [13]
  • On average, nearly 90% of parents in China have a positive attitude about their children receiving sex education in school. [8]
  • In Canada, the majority of parents (a range from 91% in Atlantic provinces to 82% in Ontario) have high support for sex education being taught in schools. [9]
  • Most of the parents from the above-cited studies showed a favorable attitude towards comprehensive sex education, but some still prefer a focus on abstinence. In some conservative countries such as Malaysia and Bangladesh, the parents preferred sex education aligned with their religious values. [10]

Sex Education Around The World

bar graph depicting that 47% of males and 43% of females reported having penile-vaginal intercourse for the first time prior to receiving sex education
  • In a study of American adolescents from 2015-2019, 54% of males and 53% of females reported that they “had received sex education that meets the minimum standard articulated in Healthy People 2030.” [14]
  • Among adolescents who reported having penile-vaginal intercourse between 2015 and 2019, 47% of males and 43% of females received sex education prior to having sex for the first time. [14]
  • Between 2015 and 2019, less than 50% of adolescents were provided information on where to obtain birth control before having sex for the first time. [14]
  • In a research study conducted with 293 university students in Spain, 58% felt their sex education was poor. [2]
  • That same study from Spain found that 18.1% reported receiving no sex education and 20.8% of participants felt they had good sex education. [2]
  • Only 3.1% of university students in Spain believe their sex education was excellent.[2]

Sources