and economic vulnerability enhance the likelihood that young people will engage in risky sexual behaviors. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that coercive sex is not an uncommon experience for many girls and young women.
However, sex is not being initiated at an earlier age relative to the past in most countries. While there has been an increase in the percentage having premarital sex before age 18 in many countries over the past 20 years, delays in the age of marriage in most countries have meant that, on balance relative to 20 years ago, fewer young women report themselves to have been sexually active before age 18. Thus while sex is being delayed, the context of first sexual experience is changing, with a greater likelihood now than in the past that first sex will be experienced prior to marriage.
Other adolescent behaviors with compromising long-term implications for health include smoking, drinking, and using illicit drugs. Across the developing world, tobacco use is increasing, and the gender gap in smoking prevalence is closing rapidly. There is also evidence that the prevalence of illicit drug use among young people is rising slowly. Alcohol intake is highest among affluent and urban young people and thus is also expected to increase with continued urbanization.
The rise in school enrollment and the delay in the timing of school exit have resulted in a delay in the timing of labor force entry and a concomitant decline in the percentage of young people participating in the labor force, particularly at younger ages. Household poverty is strongly associated with the likelihood that children will participate in the labor force; thus a global decline in poverty is an important explanation for declines in the prevalence of labor market work among children. Rising poverty rates in sub-Saharan Africa imply a less positive outlook for trends in children’s labor force participation, however.
The rise in school enrollment and attainment and the rapidly closing gender gap in schooling is leading to a growing equalization of work burdens between young men and women during their adolescent years. This is because students spend relatively little time in the labor market, and gender differences in mean daily hours spent by students in noneconomic household work (e.g., household chores) are relatively small. This equalization in work roles is further reinforced by the rise in the proportion of young women entering the labor force, in particular the paid labor force.
The economic returns to schooling at the secondary and tertiary levels