PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–Despite what the critics may say, a new study by Phillip B. Levine, Wellesley’s Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics, and Melissa Schettini Kearney of the University of Maryland, reveals the MTV series “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” did not glamorize teen pregnancy, but instead played a large role in reducing teen births.
The study titled “Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing,” published by The National Bureau of Economic Research, found that MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births, accounting for around one-third of the decline in teen births in the year and a half following the show’s premiere in 2009.
Levine and Kearney analyzed the show’s exposure to teens using Nielsen ratings and metrics from Google and Twitter.
The statistics let researchers know exactly what teens are thinking when they are watching the shows and it was determined that the shows had an influence on teens’ thinking regarding birth control and abortion.
The data also revealed that both shows have highly engaged audiences and searches and tweets about birth control and abortion dramatically spike exactly when the shows are on, especially in locations where teen pregnancy is more prevalent.
Perhaps the most significant finding is that “the introduction of “16 and Pregnant” along with its partner shows, “Teen Mom” and “Teen Mom 2,” led teens to noticeably reduce the rate at which they give birth,” according to Kearney and Levine.
They estimate that these shows “led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births that would have been conceived between June 2009, when the show began, and the end of 2010. This can explain around one-third of the total decline in teen births over that period.”
Not only did teen births reduce, but researchers pointed out that teen abortion rates also fell, suggesting that the shows’ impact likely led to a reduction in pregnancy rather than a greater use of abortion.