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'16 And Pregnant,' 'Teen Mom' Played Role In Reducing Teen Pregnancy: Study

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As much as reality TV gets a bad rap, two shows could actually be having a positive effect in reducing the teen pregnancy rate.

In a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists from Wellesley College and the University of Maryland analyzed how exposure to the MTV shows "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" (via data from Nielsen ratings, Google and Twitter) could have affected teen birth rates since 2009.

They found in their analysis that "'16 and Pregnant' led to more searches and tweets regarding birth control and abortion, and ultimately led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months following its introduction," they wrote in the study. "This accounts for around one-third of the overall decline in teen births in the United States during that period."

Researchers noted that the Great Recession likely played the largest role of all in the decreasing the teen birth rate -- which sharply declined between 2008 and 2012 -- but that the advent of the MTV shows also had an influence.

For instance, tweets and Google searches for birth control and abortion were at a higher volume when the shows were on, as well as in parts of the country where the shows were more commonly watched.

However, a recent study from Indiana University showed a potential negative effect of these same shows: leading some people (particularly those who believe reality TV is actually real) to believe teen moms have an easy life.

"Heavy viewers of teen mom reality programs were more likely to think that teen moms have a lot of time to themselves, can easily find child care so that they can go to work or school and can complete high school than were lighter viewers of such shows," the researchers wrote in that study, which is published in the journal Mass Communication and Society.

 
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