It turns out reality TV can sometimes be good for you. At least that seems to be the take-away from a report issued Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research which finds that the MTV reality series "16 and Pregnant" has actually had a positive impact on reducing the number of teen pregnancies.
"16 and Pregnant," which has aired on MTV since 2009, follows a series of pregnant teens through the birth of their child and their first days as a new mother. According to the study, an increase in Internet searches related to the series led to a 5.7% reduction in the number of teen births in the U.S. in the 18 months following the series premiere. That's roughly one-third of the total teen birth reduction during that time.
The study was authored by Phillip Levine, a professor of economics at Wellesley College, and Melissa Kearney, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland.
The professors examined data from Google Trends, Twitter, Nielsen ratings information and the actual number of teen births to arrive at their conclusions.
Speaking to NBC News, Levine said, "This is sex education for the 21st century. This is a show that very clearly exemplifies what life is going to be like in the aftermath of having a baby at such a young age."
The success of "16 and Pregnant" has led to several spinoff series, including "Teen Mom 1-3," which follows specific teen moms featured in "16 and Pregnant" and more fully explores their lives.
The series have had the side effect of creating more tabloid fodder from teen moms Farrah Abraham, who recorded a sex tape with porn star James Deen in order to build her celebrity, and Amber Portwood, who spent 17 months in prison for violating probation on a drug possession charge.
MTV has announced a fifth season of "16 and Pregnant," but not an airdate.