SOCIAL INDICATORS 2007
Despite the decrease in teenage sexual behavior and less unprotected sexual behavior, there is a rapid increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases:
The first graph shows that the rate of sexually transmitted diseases more than double between the early 1960s and early 1970s. After hitting a high in 1991 the rate dropped again until 1997. Since that time the rate has risen steadily and is now at its highest level ever, just above 600. That has been driven by a 69.2% increase in the rate Chlamydia. The CDC estimates that at present one in five adolescent and adult Americans has genital herpes. The second graph shows a similar story for these other diseases and conditions although the rate has remained fairly constant over the last decade.
The rate of people contracting Aids, the most deadly of sexually transmitted diseases, is also not good:
After peaking in 1992, the rate of new aids declined almost by half between 1992 and 1997. However, the rate has flattened out since that time until 2004. Then, in 2005, there was an 11.6% increase in new cases. It remains to be seen if this marks a new trend.
All of these statistics point to significant changes with regard to family and sexuality. Recent debate of same-sex unions shows that the very ideas of marriage and family are in a state of flux. If we accept the premise that the two parent household is the optimal circumstance for raising children and marriage the optimal circumstance for engaging in sexual behavior, then the picture is not good.
While the abortion rate has declined by about 20% over the last twenty years it is still true that one in four pregnancies ends in abortion. If trends continue, 40% of children are born to unmarried women by the end of the decade. Some of these women, know doubt, go on to marry or live in stable relationships with fathers, but many children born into two parent families also experience divorce and loss of the two parent status. (I want to be clear here that I am not saying that any particular one parent home is a hopeless situation by any means. I am addressing public policy and what we know from looking at the aggregate.) While there is some modest good news about teen sexual behavior, the overall increase in sexually transmitted diseases is very high and rising.
Another cultural factor related to this is the rise in the availability of pornography. The pornography industry was in retreat as recently as the early 1990s but the rise of the internet has brought it roaring back to life. It is easily a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Images and video graphically portraying virtually every imaginable sexual act can be accessed with a few mouse clicks by children with unfiltered internet access. Even with filtered access children can be confronted with pornography. Chat rooms provide ready made connections with children for sexual predators. All this is not to mention the potential desensitizing impact of pornography on significant numbers of adults in our culture. The pornography industry has surged in the last few years and it remains to be seen what impact pornography will have.
- Two parent families have declined from 87.7% in 1960 to about 67% over the last decade.
- The divorce rate has remained constant at 50% since 1977.
- The percentage of births to unwed mothers has increased from 10% in 1970 to 36.9% in 2005.
- The percentage of births to unwed teens, after rising from 5.4% in 1970 to 9.9% in 1994, has declined to 8.5% in 2005 (but has risen from 8.2% in 1982).
- After reaching an abortion rate high of 29.3 per 1000 women in 1980 and 1981, the rate dropped to 20.8 in 2002.
- The percentage of unmarried nineteen year olds who reported that they have had ever had sexual intercourse in 1988 and 2002, dropped from 76.5 to 70.1 for girls and from 78% to 65.2% for boys. For seventeen year olds the percentage rose from 38.3% to 43.1% for girls and declined from 57.2% to 39.4%.
- The four major sexually transmitted diseases are at an all time high. About 1 in 5 Americans has genital herpes.
- New incidences of AIDS reached a high in 1992 of 31.2 new cases per 100,000 population before dropping by half to 16 in 1997. Since that time the rate has bottomed at 13.8 and stayed about 14 until 2005 when it jumped from 14 to 15.5.
- Pornography has become a multi-billion dollar industry in less than a decade through internet marketing creating anonymity and low cost for a rapidly growing base of consumers.
Most indicators related to family formation and sexuality suggest a significantly declining quality of life.