Despite all anecdotal, “kids these days” evidence to the contrary, a new study suggests that shows like MTV’s Teen Mom and 16 And Pregnant actually discourage teenage pregnancy. The National Bureau of Economic Research study argues that, in 2010 alone, the shows may have reduced the teen birthrate by about six percent—or approximately 20,000 births to underage mothers. In 2007, about 42 out of every 1,000 teen girls became mothers; by 2012, that number had dropped to about 29 out of every thousand.
While conservative family groups like the Media Research Center contend that MTV’s programming glorifies teen pregnancy, the study claims that the shows actually do the opposite, by reminding their 3 million weekly viewers that not only does popping out a kid while still in high school cramps one’s social style, but also babies are expensive and noisy.
While researchers aren’t sure whether 16 And Pregnant and its spinoffs have affected teen pregnancy by encouraging contraception or discouraging actual sex, it notes that, as the show’s viewership went up, the rate of teen pregnancy dropped. The study also shows that social media posts and Internet searches about birth control tend to spike when episodes of the shows air.
The new season of Teen Mom 2 starts airing Jan. 21 on MTV.