Chris Blattman

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How to reduce teen births in the US by one third? Reality television

MTV’s 16 and Pregnant franchise is a series of reality TV shows which follow pregnant teenagers from the end of their pregnancy through early motherhood.

We investigate whether the show influenced teens’ interest in contraceptive use or abortion, and whether it ultimately altered teen childbearing outcomes.

…We find 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.

This accounts for around one-third of the overall decline in teen births in the United States during that period.

A new paper from Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine. Emphasis mine. I bolded the statement, but what it deserves is five exclamation points followed by Holy. Freaking. Moly.

The sad part: think of all the terrible damage the other 1,764 reality shows are wreaking on American social fabric.

3 Responses

  1. Unless I’m badly mistaken, the headline doesn’t match the claim in the paper — the induced decline is 5.7%, whereas the headline implies it’s 33%.

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