How do specific media images affect adolescent attitudes and outcomes? Melissa Kearney of the Brookings Institution and Philip Levine of Wellesley College set out to answer this question with their study of “16 and Pregnant.”
A series of reality TV shows airing on MTV, “16 and Pregnant” and its “Teen Mom” sequel follow the lives of pregnant teenagers during the end of their pregnancy and early days of motherhood. Kearney and Levine investigate whether the show influenced teens’ interest in contraceptive use or abortion, and whether it ultimately altered teen childbearing outcomes. They use data from Google Trends and Twitter to document changes in searches and tweets resulting from the show, Nielsen ratings data to capture geographic variation in viewership, and Vital Statistics birth data to measure changes in teen birth rates. Their research finds that 16 and Pregnant led to more searches and tweets regarding birth control and abortion, and ultimately led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months following the show’s introduction. This accounts for around one-third of the overall decline in teen births in the United States during that period.
At this breakfast event, Kearney will discuss her methodology and the implications of her findings for the field of media impact assessments.
Melissa Kearney is the director of the Hamilton Project; a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution; and an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Maryland, where she has been on the faculty since 2006. She is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and a Faculty Affiliate of the Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO). Kearney’s research focuses on issues of social policy, poverty, and inequality.
Professor Kearney received her Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2002 and her B.A. from Princeton University in 1996. She studied on a National Science Graduate Research Fellowship and a Harry S Truman Scholarship. Past positions include Fellow at Brookings Institution and Assistant Professor at Wellesley College. She is particularly interested in the effect of government programs and economic conditions on the behaviors and outcomes of economically disadvantaged populations. She also has research interests in household decision-making with regard to risk and uncertainty, saving, and gambling. She teaches Public Economics at both the undergraduate and doctoral levels at the University of Maryland.
- David Devlin-Foltz, Executive Director, Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program (APEP)
How do specific media images affect adolescent attitudes and outcomes? Melissa Kearney of the Brookings Institution and Philip Levine of Wellesley College set out to answer this question with their study of “16 and Pregnant.” At this breakfast event, Kearney will discuss her methodology and the implications of her findings for the field of media impact assessments.