Reality television shows helped reduce teen pregnancy and abortions in the United States, a new study in this month’s National Bureau of Economic Research concludes.
The research discovered that between 2009, when cable network MTV debuted 16 and Pregnant and the end of 2010, there was a 5.7% drop in teen births of babies that “would have been conceived” and teen abortions.
The authors monitored Nielsen ratings data, tweets about the show and Google searches for the show to discover spikes in online searches for terms like “birth control” or “abortion” precisely “at the time a new episode was released.
This analysis led researchers to find that the shows “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
In 2012, the US teen birth was at a 2.94% rate (29.4 out of every 1,000 girls between 15 and 19), which is high for a “developed” nation. Nonetheless, the US has seen a significant drop in its overall teen birth rate since 1991 when it was 61.8 births per 1,000.
If one considers the less than ideal situations the girls from 16 & Pregnant‘s spin-offs,