The XX Factor

Want to Get Young Women to Use Condoms? Give Them Money.

100 dollar bills.

Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a new study from the Journal of Adolescent Health that shows that teenage girls whose primary source of spending money is a boyfriend are less likely to use condoms by a significant margin. The data—which was taken from a longitudinal study of 715 African American teens in Atlanta—also shows that young women are less likely to use condoms if their boyfriend has a car.

The idea that women who are financially reliant on their boyfriends would be more susceptible to coercion isn’t that surprising. But what’s particularly notable about the study is that the socioeconomic status of a teenager’s family had no impact on whether they would use condoms. Whether or not a teenager used condoms was all based on their personal “human and financial capital,” which the study defines as level of education and employment status. This jibes with another young women and condom study that showed college age women were less likely to use condoms as their freshman year went on if they had lower high-school GPAs or lower socioeconomic status.

There’s evidence that if teenage boys are given greater access to condoms they are more likely to use them. But the same doesn’t hold for teenage girls. The study from the Journal of Adolescent Health points to a randomized experiment in Africa, which showed that “providing money to young women decreases sexual risk-taking.” Which is to say: the way to get these young women to protect their sexual health is not through free condoms or a stern talking-to. The way to reach them might be as simple as giving them cold, hard, cash.