updated 1/28/2004 6:32:05 PM ET 2004-01-28T23:32:05

People who flee urban schools in pursuit of more wholesome settings may be surprised by this report card: Suburban students engage in just as much sex, drugs and fighting as city kids do.

“The desks may be newer, the paint may be fresher and the faces may be whiter, but the students are just as likely to have sex, use controlled substances and break the law,” said a report released Wednesday by the Manhattan Institute, a New York-based conservative think tank.

The authors, Jay Greene and Greg Forster, analyzed student survey data collected from the same group of students in three waves, from 1995 to 2002. The survey, which comprised an estimated 20,000 students, was sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and other federal agencies.

Among the results of the study, which focused on high school grades:

  • Two-thirds of suburban and urban 12th-graders have had sex; 43 percent of suburban 12th-graders and 39 percent of urban 12th-graders have had sex outside of a “romantic relationship.”
  • 74 percent of suburban 12th-graders and 71 percent of urban 12th-graders have tried alcohol more than two or three times.
  • 22 percent of suburban 12th-graders and 16 percent of urban 12th-graders say they have driven while drunk.
  • More than 40 percent of 12th-graders in urban and suburban schools have used illegal drugs.
  • 20 percent of urban 12th-grade girls have been pregnant; 14 percent of suburban 12th-grade girls have.

Such numbers are among those that are higher than many people would likely expect, regardless of the school setting, Greene said.

“People who think they’ve escaped these kinds of societal issues by moving to the suburbs — we think they’re mistaken,” Greene said. “The suburban schools aren’t safe havens.”

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