The Role of New Media on Teen Sexual Behaviors and Fertility Outcomes – The Case of ’16 and Pregnant’

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



This essay investigates the media, specifically the 2009 premiere of ’16 and Pregnant,’ as a shock to teen information sets and potential influence on sexual activity and fertility. The program, chronicling teen pregnancy and providing educational links on sex and contraception, was the first of a continuing stream of teen pregnancy reality shows. The conceptual framework considers how such programs alter the expected (dis)utility of becoming pregnant or the perceived risk of pregnancy. I expect the treatment effects of the program to be stronger for women with less knowledge and experience – young teens (15-16) and residents of states without formal sex education requirements – and in locations with higher viewership. I test for these differential effects in a quasi-difference-in-difference framework, also controlling for confounding effects such as coincident changes in emergency contraception policy, the economy, and well-established, downward trends in teen fertility. The results indicate that fertility declined across all adolescents in the post-period. Unique to young teens, I find stronger effects for states without sex education mandates, and in areas with higher viewership. Supporting evidence from the NSFG shows a decrease (increase) in recent sexual activity (contraception use) in the post period for young relative to older teens.


At the time of writing this article, Jennifer Trudeau was affiliated with University of New Hampshire, Department of Economics.