Is it Worth the Wait? The Effect of a Woman’s Sexual History on Divorce

Student Author(s)

Jennie Pollack

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Sarah Estelle

Document Type


Event Date



This research estimates the role that a woman’s number of previous sexual partners has on the outcome of her first marriage. The social sciences have notable literature regarding this effect, and though economists have joined the conversation in regards to examining the impact of cohabitation, there are no economic studies on the impact of a woman’s sexual history. Advanced econometric methods can separately identify the effects of religion, age, education, and cohabitation, as well as explore the causal impact of a woman’s number of sexual partners. The Female Respondent File of the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth provides data on the past intimate relationships of over 12,000 women. I examine this information along with other variables including religiosity and income to account for potentially confounding factors. This study uses age of menarche as an instrument for number of sexual partners. While an OLS model suggests a significant positive correlation between the number of premarital sexual partners on the likelihood of divorce, an instrumental variable strategy fails to identify analogous causation. In both models the number of premarital cohabitations is positively correlated with divorce. Ultimately, causality is unclear due to a lack of statistical significance in the instrumental variable.

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