A new research paper links the drop in teenage birth- and pregnancy rates with the controversial MTV show 16 and Pregnant in certain areas where viewership of the show was high, the New York Times reports. As part of their findings, researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research also discovered that Internet activity regarding birth control and abortion rose while the show was on.
As the title suggests, 16 and Pregnant is a reality-TV show featuring stories of different pregnant teenagers and the hardships they face; the show has led to a handful of spin-offs. While critics have denounced the franchise for glorifying teenage pregnancies and potentially leading to more of them, “the timing of the introduction of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant is such that it might conceivably have contributed in some measure to the most recent, very sharp decline” in teenage birth rates, the study reads.
From 2009 to the end of 2011, the rate of teen births dropped nearly 6 percent, according to the study. By looking at birth records and Nielsen ratings, the researchers determined that the rate actually dropped faster in areas where teenagers watched MTV versus those where fewer teens viewed the channel.
Additionally, the researchers found an “associated spike in Google searches and twitter messages containing the terms ‘birth control’ and ‘abortion’” whenever a new episode aired in areas where the show was popular.
Read the entire study here.