Nonmarital Sex by Age 25: Generational Differences Between Baby Boomers & Millennials

Family Profile No. 11, 2017
Author: Paul Hemez

Attitudes and demographic characteristics appear to differ between Baby Boomers and Millennials (Anderson, 2017; Taylor, 2014). Using the 2002 and 2011/15 cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), this Family Profile considers whether generational differences between Baby Boomers and Millennials also exist with regards to women's engagement in nonmarital sex in early adulthood. Specifically, we compare the shares of late Baby Boomer women (born between 1957 and 1964) and early Millennial women (born between 1981 and 1990) who had sex outside of marriage by age 25, with distinctions by racial/ethnic status and educational attainment. Our analyses are restricted to women's sexual experiences with male partners only.

*Note: The terms Baby Boomer and Millennial throughout this profile represent late members of the Baby Boomer generation and early members of the Millennial generation.

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Share of Baby Boomer and Millennial Women who had Nonmarital Sex by Age 25

  • Eight in ten Baby Boomer women had sex outside of marriage before their 25th birthday compared to nine in ten Millennial women, a percentage increase of 11%.
  • Among women who had sex outside of marriage during early adulthood, the average number of partners increased from 4.6 to 6.5 between Baby Boomers and Millennials.

Figure 1. Share of Women Who had Nonmarital Sex by Age 25, by Generation

bar chart showing Figure 1. Share of Women Who had Nonmarital Sex by Age 25, by Generation
Source: NCFMR analyses of Baby Boomers, 2002 NSFG; Millennials, 2011/15 NSFG
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...the average number of partners increased from 4.6 to 6.5 between Baby Boomers and Millennals.

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Nonmarital Sex by Age 25 across Racial and Ethnic Status

  • Across race/ethnicity, the share of women who had nonmarital sex by age 25 was greater among Millennials than Baby Boomers.
  • The racial/ethnic gap in nonmarital sex has diminished. Among Baby Boomers, the share of women who experienced nonmarital sex by age 25 varied by race/ethnicity, ranging from 64% of Hispanics to 91 % of Blacks.
    • Among women born a quarter century later, however, there was virtually no racial/ethnic variation in the share of women who had sex outside of marriage (90% - 92%).
       

Figure 2. Share of Women Who had Nonmarital Sex by Age 25, by Generation and Race/Ethnicity

bar chart showing   Figure 2. Share of Women Who had Nonmarital Sex by Age 25, by Generation and Race/Ethnicity
Source: NCFMR analyses of Baby Boomers, 2002 NSFG; Millennials, 2011/15 NSFG

Note: We exclude respondents who report "other" or multiple racial/ethnic statuses from Figure 2, however, they are included in the overall totals.

Nonmarital Sex by Age 25 Across Educational Attainment Levels

  • Nonmarital sexual experience by age 25 was more common among Millennials than Baby Boomers across each educational attainment level.
  • In both the Baby Boomer and the Millennial generations, the largest share of women who had nonmarital sex by their 25th birthday were those with a high school education or GED, whereas the smallest share included those with at least a college degree.  

Figure 3. Share of Women Who had Nonmarital Sex by Age 25, by Generation and Educational Attainment

bar chart showing Figure 3. Share of Women Who had Nonmarital Sex by Age 25, by Generation and Educational Attainment
Source: NCFMR analyses of Baby Boomers, 2002 NSFG; Millennials, 2011/15 NSFG
References
  • Anderson, L. R. (2017). Generational differences during young adulthood: Baby Boomers vs. Millennials. Family Profiles, FP -17-06. Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family & Marriage Research http://www.bgsu.edu/ncfmr/resources/data/family-profiles/anderson­demographics-baby-boomers-millennials-fp-17-06.html
  • Taylor, P. (2014, April 10). The next America. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/next-america/#Two-Dramas-in-Slow-Motion
Suggested Citation
  • Hemez, P. (2017). Nonmarital sex by age 25: Generational differences between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Family Profiles, FP-17-11. Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family & Marriage Research. https://doi.org/10.25035/ncfmr/fp-17-22

This project is supported with assistance from Bowling Green State University. From 2007 to 2013, support was also provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s) and should not be construed as representing the opinions or policy of any agency of the state or federal government.