One in four women in the United States will experience forced intercourse by the time they're 44, and the risk is greater for women who have attended little or no college compared to those who attend four or more years of college.

Women who have attended little or no college are at about 2.5 times greater risk for experiencing forced intercourse. About 8 percent of men report forced intercourse, and men with less than four years of college have four times higher odds of experienced forced intercourse, according to a study by William Axinn, a researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and professor of sociology and public policy.

After completing a survey about sexual assault on a college campus, Axinn wanted to study the rate of this kind of assault among people who haven't attended college. To study this, he and his colleagues used data from the U.S. National Survey of Family Growth. The nationally representative survey queries about 5,000 American men and women ages 15-44 annually about their family-related behaviors and outcomes, including whether the respondent has experienced forced intercourse.

The survey focuses on family and reproductive health for both men and women. Some of its questions measure intercourse, including what it terms "forced intercourse." The survey doesn't use the word "rape": according to the National Academy of Science, surveys may undercount sexual assault when they use the word "rape."

"When I first saw how high the rates were on campus, like most Americans, I was deeply disturbed," said Axinn, a research professor in both the Survey Research Center and the Population Studies Center at ISR. "When I thought through the processes and imagined it could be even worse off campus, I was disturbed that we're paying so much attention to the on-campus issue and not giving enough attention to young people who are not fortunate enough to be enrolled in college."

Data from the National Survey of Family Growth tend to be high quality because respondents answer sensitive questions through audio-computer assisted self-interviewing, which provides greater privacy than speaking with an interviewer. These questions include whether a sexual encounter happened during violent assault, intoxication, verbal pressure or verbal degradation.

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