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The recession and MTV's "16 and Pregnant" probably brought teen birth rates down

The nation’s teen birth rate has been falling for years, but it reached a record low in 2015 according to new figures from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been tracking the figures annually since 1970.

The long-term decline has accelerated in recent years. From 2008 through 2015, the teen birth rate has fallen an average of 7 percent each year. “The continued, large decline in the teen birth rate was also somewhat surprising, although not unprecedented,” said the lead author on the report, Joyce A. Martin, a demographer and a statistician.


The Pew Research Center credits the recession of 2008 as a contributing factor. Indeed, the teen birth rate dropped a more dramatic 10 percent from 2009 to 2010. Another probable factor: MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” premiered in 2009, giving viewers an unvarnished view of the realities of teen pregnancy, according to a 2014 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Other factors that may have influenced teen births including the rising use of contraception. For instance, the use of the morning-after pill by sexually active female teenagers had increased from 8 percent in 2002 to 22 percent in 2011, according to the CDC.

According to The National Campaign, America taxpayers saved $12 billion because of the nearly one-half decline in the teen birth rate between 1991 and 2010. Teen motherhood is associated with increased costs for foster care, higher incarceration rates, and lost tax revenue.

In addition to saving tax revenue, the decrease also prevents young girls from paying the high price of teenage motherhood. According to the nonprofit group Child Trends, only half of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by age 22, whereas about nine out of ten women without teen birth graduate from high school.