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Can reality shows like ‘16 and Pregnant’ lower the teen birth rate?

 Farrah Abraham, Maci Bookout and Bristol Palin  speak to Dr. Drew Pinsky during
Farrah Abraham, Maci Bookout and Bristol Palin speak to Dr. Drew Pinsky during " The Harsh Truth: Teen Moms Tell All" Town Hall Meeting sponsored by The Candie's Foundation at Lighthouse International Conference Center on May 5, 2010 in New York City.
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

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Popular reality TV shows like '16 and Pregnant' and 'Teen Mom' have been criticized for glamorizing teen pregnancy but according to a new study, the shows may actually have a positive effect on the teen birthrate. Researchers combed through Nielsen ratings data combined with birth records from 2010 and concluded that the shows prevented more than 20,000 teenage births, nearly 6 percent of the total.

The teen birth rate declined faster in areas where teenagers actually watched more MTV programming. The two shows are among MTV's most popular with some episodes drawing more than 3 million viewers. The paper, published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, is being hailed by advocacy groups trying to prevent teen pregnancy but critics argue that the young moms featured in the show become celebrities with reality show fame and hefty paychecks.

One of MTV's first teen mom stars, Farrah Abraham, went on to star in the VH1 show 'Couples Therapy'. Are these shows a realistic depiction of teen pregnancy? Do they make teens think twice about becoming teen parents themselves? Or does the celebrity status of MTV's teen moms give teens an unrealistic picture of what parenthood is like? Do you think they have a positive or negative effect on teenage viewers?


Phillip Levine, professor of economics at Wellesley College and co-author of the study

Maci Bookout, participant on  ‘16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Teen Mom’

Melissa Henson, National grassroots director for the Parents Television Council

Bill Albert, Chief Program Officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy