Watching TV Cut Teen Pregnancy More than did Any Policy
|August 22, 2014||Posted by Staff under Social Change|
This 2014 excerpt of Bloomberg Businessweek, Aug 14, is by John Tozzi.
In 2008 there were 1.7 million children born to unmarried women in the U.S. The rate of unwed births, at 52 newborns per 1,000 unmarried women, had been climbing steadily since 2002 and was the highest ever recorded.
After 2008, births to unmarried women declined each year. The steepest declines in childbearing have been recorded among unmarried black and Hispanic women, narrowing the gap with whites.
2009 is when MTV aired its reality show, 16 and Pregnant, followed by a slew of Teen Mom spinoffs. The narratives of hard lives of young mothers prompted Google searches and tweets about birth control or abortion. The show accounted for as much as one-third of the overall drop in teen births in the year and a half after its debut.
A hit TV show dwarfs the influence of pretty much all the public policy that could affect teen birth rates. Changes to welfare, Medicaid coverage for contraception, sex ed or abstinence curriculums, access to abortion -— none of it really moves the needle.
Teens, in particular, are staying childless by using contraception and having less sex, not by an increased reliance on abortion. Since the 1990s, women have been delaying childbirth. The pattern is evident in other developed nations as well.
There’s still plenty of room for unwed birth rates to decline, particularly among populations with the least economic opportunities. The proportion of births to low-educated women that are outside of marriage remains staggeringly high.
Ed. Notes: Our sex drive is pretty strong, as is our territorial imperative. Yet if a TV show can sway people to make rational choices about sex, perhaps another one can help people make rational choices about occupying land. Imagine: tune it, pay land dues, and share land rent!