Teen pregnancy reality shows reduced teen births, study says

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Television reality shows on teen pregnancy helped reduce the number of teen births in the United States, a study suggests.

The study, published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, said the MTV show "16 and Pregnant," led to more online searches and tweets about birth control and abortion and a 5.7 percent reduction in the number of teen births in the 18 months after the show began.


The show generated three spin-offs: Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2 and Teen Mom 3.

In 2012, 29.4 out of every 1,000 girls between 15 and 19 in the United States gave birth, or 2.94 percent, a rate the authors said was "considerably higher" than any other developed country. Still, the U.S. teen birth rate has fallen from 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991.

Nielsen ratings data and tweets about the show were used in developing the study, as well as Google searches for the show. The study also used vital statistics about live births in the United states between January 2006 and December 2010.

The analysis found large spikes in online searches that included terms such as birth control or abortion "exactly at the time a new episode was released." Researchers concluded the show "had an influence on teens' thinking regarding birth control and abortion."


Economists Melissa S. Kearney of the University of Maryland and Phillip B. Levine of Wellesley College, authors of the study, said the shows "led teens to noticeably reduce the rate at which they give birth."

Between June 2009, when "16 and Pregnant" began, and the end of 2010, their research suggested a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births that "would have been conceived." Teen abortion rates also fell during that period, the study said.

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