Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing

by Melissa S. Kearney, Phillip B. Levine


This paper explores how specific media images affect adolescent attitudes and outcomes. The specific context examined is the widely viewed MTV franchise, 16 and Pregnant, a series of reality TV shows including the Teen Mom sequels, which follow the lives of pregnant teenagers during the end of their pregnancy and early days of motherhood. We investigate whether the show influenced teens’ interest in contraceptive use or abortion, and whether it ultimately altered teen childbearing outcomes. We use data from Google Trends and Twitter to document changes in searches and tweets resulting from the show, Nielsen ratings data to capture geographic variation in viewership, and Vital Statistics birth data to measure changes in teen birth rates. 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.

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Michael S.
Michael S.
7 years ago

Someone better let Kevin Andrews know.

paul walter
paul walter
7 years ago

Better take your medicine, or you won’t be one of the boys, or that fetchingly popular little free spirit if you are a girl.

paul walter
paul walter
7 years ago

Whoops, wrong thread.. how did I get here from Carlsberg?
If today’s kids are half as thick as I was at that age, they will need all the help they can get.
Good to see at least some of the kids stopped and had a think about what they’d seen.

John Gregson
John Gregson
5 years ago
Reply to  paul walter

G’day Paul,

It’s me John Gregson, from Carlsberg, wanna meet up with some of lads for a School Reunion, and wondering if ya wanna come have a few girl free spirit cocktails?

Let me know on 132227
Little Johnny!