Few studies using nationally representative data have included Hispanics.
Furthermore, although Hispanics are heterogeneous with regard to national origin, few national data sets contain samples large enough to allow for comparisons within Hispanic subgroups.
Our data come from a population-based sample of Los Angeles County youths.
Los Angeles is one of the largest and most ethnically, culturally and economically diverse counties in the country.
Although a recent analysis using data from the 1992 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) estimated age at first sex by gender and ethnicity, only three ethnic groups were compared: blacks, non-Hispanic whites and a heterogeneous grouping of Hispanics.
Also, no variables other than ethnicity were included in the descriptive analysis.
Life-table analysis using data from a population-based, ethnically diverse sample of 877 Los Angeles County youths was employed to estimate the median age at first sex for each gender-and-ethnicity group.
Multivariate analysis using proportional hazards techniques was conducted to determine the relative risk of sexual activity among teenagers in each group.
However, studies that have included both males and females have consistently shown gender differences in the age at first sexual experience.• A variant of the socioeconomic explanation focuses on social conditions, such as single parenthood, that are particularly prevalent among certain ethnic and disadvantaged populations.This interpretation suggests that ethnic variation in age at first sex would be reduced if differentials in social conditions were taken into account.Hispanic and Asian American females had rates of first sex about half that of white females, although these protective effects were explained by differences in family structure.Even after controlling for background characteristics, black males had rates of first sex that were about 3-5 times the rates of the other gender-and-ethnicity groups.