Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sex, Lies, and Data

While sorting through the NLSY79, I realized women often answer one particular question inconsistently from year to year.

How old were you when you first had sexual intercourse?

A subset of the 79 cohort was asked this question in 1983, 84, and 85. More often than not, they answered inconsistently. 1 year differences could probably be chalked up to natural error. "Was I 16 or 17 that Summer?" What do you say for a 16/20 split though? Clearly, someone is not telling the truth. But why lie to an interviewer?

After skimming the NLSY79 manual, it appears as the interviewee was not always surveyed alone (spouses, children, etc. were present). That's unfortunate, from a scientific perspective. I plan to use the lowest year offered by the interviewee. What do you think?

(The question was not repeated for males once they had offered a year, so comparisons are not possible.)

7 comments:

Angela Erickson said...

I would probably go with the lower number as well, but to back it up you may want to check your average age (and maybe by demographic groups) against the mean in another data set.

This piece on premarital sex and stigmatization would probably also give some insights on the difference in response (a couple years and other people around would clearly play a role): http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1313185

Will Luther said...

Thanks for the heads up. That's a nice title, too.

I am considering the following titles:
(1) Getting Laid Means Getting Paid
(2) Does Abstinence Pay Off?
(3) Waiting for Marriage? It Will Cost You!

Angela Erickson said...

hahaha, I think I'm partial to the first title. What is your paper going to be about? The last one sounds like the qualitative analysis I've been doing recently on account of my friend having told me he would marry the girl he's dating except for the sex being bad. So, I've been trying to figure out how immportant matching on labido is (among other characteristics).

Will Luther said...

My aim is to empirically test the claim that abstinence is better. Of course this requires us to say what is meant by "better." So my first stab at the claim is to see whether those who wait for marriage earn higher wages. They don't. I follow this up by calculating the optimal ages (with respect to maximizing income) for losing one's virginity and getting married. 27 and 37, respectively.

Ideally, I would run the regression with other left hand side variables (measurements of better).

Suzie said...
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Suzie said...

Will, how are you going to factor in children, or are you only looking at people who have not reproduced? I feel like kids are part of the mix when talking about sex, marriage, and money. Whether this means when people have kids they may put more emphasis on work/money because they need it to raise a family or the flip side being because they have a family they may want to spend more time with them and less time on work. Additionally a woman who loses her virginity at 16 and becomes pregnant would most likely have a different income distribution vs. someone who loses it at the same age but does not become pregnant. I was just wondering how you dealt with this.

Will Luther said...

"Additionally a woman who loses her virginity at 16 and becomes pregnant would most likely have a different income distribution vs. someone who loses it at the same age but does not become pregnant."

I include the age when one becomes pregnant to control for this.