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Education Working Paper
No. 4  January 2004

Sex, Drugs, and Delinquency
in Urban and Suburban Public Schools


  1. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 (
  2. In Waves 1 and 2, for each survey wave we included only students who were currently in grades 9 through 12. Thus the data set for Wave 1 is not identical with the data set for Wave 2, as students who were in grade 12 for Wave 1 would have graduated (and thus would have been excluded from the study) for Wave 2, and students who were excluded during Wave 1 because they were in 8th grade would have been in 9th grade (and thus included) for Wave 2.


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Center for Civic Innovation.


EWP 4 PDF (85 kb)


Parents reflexively believe that suburban public schools provide children with safer and more wholesome environments than their urban counterparts. This report finds that the comforting outward signs of order and decency in suburban public schools don’t reflect real student behavior. Using hard national data on high school students, this report by Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Jay P. Greene and Senior Research Associate Greg Forster finds that urban and suburban high schools are virtually identical in terms of widespread sexual activity and alcohol use. Additionally, about 40% of 12th graders in both urban and suburban schools have used illegal drugs, and 20% of suburban 12th graders and 13% of urban 12th graders have driven while high on drugs. Both types of students are about equally likely to engage in other delinquent behaviors such as fighting and stealing.


Executive Summary

About the Authors


About Education Working Papers


Previous Research



Sexual Activity

Substance Use







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