I was in Catholic community center today for a sporting event when a brightly colored poster on a bulletin board caught my eye. The picture was of a parachutist falling gently toward the earth and the caption read “Would he do it if he knew his gear would fail to protect him from injury or death 1 out of 5 times? Why trust a condom to save your life?”
Remember The Who, talkin’ ’bout their generation? Maybe to a 20-year-old guy in the 1960s, the idea of wanting to die before getting old sounded pretty cool. But, you would think that, by the time he reached his fifties and sixties, life preservation would be the name of the game. But judging by the rate of condom use and casual sex in this (g-g-g-g-g) generation, they never stopped living on the edge.
According to a new, nationally representative, dataset released this weeka gap has emerged between the races in the U.S. It’s not an income, education, or a marriage gap—it’s a condom gap. Black Americans use condoms during vaginal intercourse significantly more than white Americans. This encouraging news on condom use might suggest hopes for a reversal in the trend in which black Americans have had a much higher prevalence of STIs than the rest of the population. Right now the evidence is preliminary, but with such a rich dataset available economists should be able to determine the factors that contribute to this difference in condom use behaviour between racial groups.
An advocate for sex-trade workers in Halifax, where I live, tells me that there is no market at all for unprotected sex in the city: one hundred percent of transactions in the sex trade here is sex with a condom. As any good economics student will tell you, a market clears at the point at which supply is equal to demand. If there are no transactions, it must be true that there is no price a potential buyer of condom-less sex is willing to pay that a seller is willing accept. Of course, it could also be the case that there is just no demand for that particular product, but I think we all know that isn’t the case.
For anyone interested in sex and economics, China is fascinating. It takes in 30% of the worldwide pornography revenue,* and prostitution income makes up 8% of its massive GDP**. I’ve just spent two (wonderful) months in China, and while sex and economics had nothing to do with my trip, I was left with one surprising observation: I wondered if the Chinese really ought to have more sex.