Does Reality TV Induce Real Effects? On the Questionable Association between 16 and Pregnant and Teenage Childbearing

51 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2016

See all articles by David A. Jaeger

David A. Jaeger

Ph.D. Program in Economics, City University of New York Graduate Center; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Cologne - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); University College London - CReAM - Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration

Theodore Joyce

CUNY Baruch College - Zicklin School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Robert Kaestner

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Abstract

We reassess recent and widely reported evidence that the MTV program 16 and Pregnant played a major role in reducing teen birth rates in the U.S. since it began broadcasting in 2009 (Kearney and Levine, American Economic Review 2015). We find Kearney and Levine's identification strategy to be problematic. Through a series of placebo and other tests, we show that the exclusion restriction of their instrumental variables approach is not valid and find that the assumption of common trends in birth rates between low and high MTV-watching areas is not met. We also reassess Kearney and Levine's evidence from social media and show that it is fragile and highly sensitive to the choice of included periods and to the use of weights. We conclude that Kearney and Levine's results are uninformative about the effect of 16 and Pregnant on teen birth rates.

Keywords: teen childbearing, media, social media, internet

JEL Classification: J13, L82

Suggested Citation

Jaeger, David A. and Joyce, Theodore J. and Kaestner, Robert, Does Reality TV Induce Real Effects? On the Questionable Association between 16 and Pregnant and Teenage Childbearing. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10317. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2861102

David A. Jaeger (Contact Author)

Ph.D. Program in Economics, City University of New York Graduate Center ( email )

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Theodore J. Joyce

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Robert Kaestner

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