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

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  • Melissa S. Kearney
  • Phillip B. Levine

Abstract

This paper explores the impact of the introduction of the widely viewed MTV reality show 16 and Pregnant on teen childbearing. Our main analysis relates geographic variation in changes in teen childbearing rates to viewership of the show. We implement an instrumental variables (IV) strategy using local area MTV ratings data from a pre-period to predict local area 16 and Pregnant ratings. The results imply that this show led to a 4.3 percent reduction in teen births. An examination of Google Trends and Twitter data suggest that the show led to increased interest in contraceptive use and abortion. (JEL D12, J13, J16, L82, Z13)

Suggested Citation

  • Melissa S. Kearney & Phillip B. Levine, 2015. "Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV's 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(12), pages 3597-3632, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:105:y:2015:i:12:p:3597-3632
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20140012
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    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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