A new economic study of Nielsen television ratings and birth records suggests that the show [17-year-old Kailyn Lowry] appeared in, "16 and Pregnant," and its spinoffs may have prevented more than 20,000 births to teenage mothers in 2010.
The paper, to be released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, makes the case that the controversial but popular programs reduced the teenage birthrate by nearly 6 percent, contributing to a long-term decline that accelerated during the recession.
"It's thrilling," said Sarah S. Brown, the chief executive of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonprofit group in Washington. "People just don't understand how influential media is in the lives of young people."
Each episode of "16 and Pregnant" follows a different teenager through her pregnancy, delivery and the first weeks of parenthood. Its "Teen Mom" spinoff series, the latest season of which debuts on Jan. 21, follows up with the mothers and their children. The depiction of both joy and hardship is unflinching, with angry parents, medical complications, lost sleep, financial difficulties and fights with absentee boyfriends.
The two shows are both among MTV's most watched, with some episodes drawing more than three million viewers, many of them young women. But the shows also have critics who say they glamorize teenage parenthood — especially since many of the mothers have become celebrities as a result of the show.
Could you be preggo? Take our quiz and find out.
Image: Teen taking pregnancy test, via Shutterstock