MTV's 16 and Pregnant and its spinoff Teen Mom may be directly responsible for reducing the birthrate of teens by nearly 6 percent since its premiere in 2009, according to a new study. Will these findings finally put a rest to the "but it glamorizes teen pregnancy" handwringing?
For the study—which appeared Monday in the National Bureau of Economic Research—researchers looked at birth records and Nielsen ratings and found that teen pregnancy declined faster in areas where the teens were watching MTV's programming than in areas where they weren't. "[I]n part by educating teenagers about the difficulty of having a child, in part by stressing the consequences of unprotected sex and in part by fostering a conversation about contraceptives and pregnancy" the show seems to have had a direct effect on the teen birthrate.
The study also explores how "16 and Pregnant" might have influenced teenagers' behavior. For example, the two economists showed that social-media postings about contraception and Internet searches on the topic spiked sharply whenever the show was being broadcast.
"The assumption we're making is that there's no reason to think that places where more people are watching more MTV in June 2009, would start seeing an excess rate of decline in the teen birthrate, but for the change in what they were watching," according to one of the authors of the study.