New Study Credits MTV’s ’16 And Pregnant’ For Dramatic Dip In Teen Pregnancies

January 15, 2014  |  

Teen mom Leah from 16 and Pregnant’s Facebook page

So while many critics have been chastising MTV’s 16 and Pregnant for glamorizing teen pregnancy, a new study finds that the controversial reality show has dropped the rate of child-bearing teens by nearly six percent, CNN reports.

Released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the report says that MTV’s 16 and Pregnant is to be credited for America’s 5.7 percent dip in teen moms. Since the show’s inception in 2009, the reality series rattled many nerves as teens pranced around with their round tummies and attained fame for the buns in their ovens.

One writer from CNN, under the title “MTV’s ‘Teen Mom’ Glamorizes Getting Pregnant,” expressed her disgust with the reality TV series:

“Why would anyone want to promote a behavior that often leaves families trapped in a cycle of poverty? Who would knowingly encourage activity that often leads to poor prenatal care, lower birth weight babies and more preterm births?”

Little did the writer know, however, that the show actually does the complete opposite of what she believed. The teen pregnancy rate — between 1991 and 2008 — has been dropping at a steady rate of about 2.5 percent a year. But within the past four years, during 16 & Pregnant’s peak, the teen pregnancy rate dropped dramatically at a 7.5 percent rate.

When 16 and Pregnant aired, Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine, the two lead investigators of the study, analyzed Nielsen ratings as well as search data from Google and Twitter. The pair found that geographic locations that gossiped the most about 16 & Pregnant also saw a spike in “birth control” and “abortion” searches. 

Most interestingly, the two also discovered that places that watched 16 & Pregnant the most had the biggest drops in teen pregnancy.

“The results of our analysis indicate that exposure to ’16 and Pregnant’ was high and that it had an influence on teens’ thinking regarding birth control and abortion,” the researchers wrote.

The most compelling evidence, Kearney and Levine noted, was the social media language. “This reminds me to take my birth control,” said one tweet. “‘Watching 16 & Pregnant, going to take my birth control,” another would say.

But of course, the MTV isn’t solely responsible for the drop in teen pregnancy rates. The researchers also point to the recession being the main driving force behind the dip in early pregnancies. Teens were more conscientious about how difficult it would be to find a job and provide for the baby.

In short, Kearney and Levine credit MTV’s 16 and Pregnant for preventing 20,000 teen pregnancies — one third of the overall decline in childbearing teenagers.

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