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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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January 13th, 2014
05:36 PM ET

TV as birth control? Study finds MTV's '16 and Pregnant' led to fewer teen births

(CNN) - A new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that reality show "16 and Pregnant" and its spin off "Teen Mom" may have prevented more than 20,000 teen pregnancies in 2010 – a 6% drop in the teen pregnancy rate since the show's original debut the previous year.

"It is very difficult to change (young people's) behavior by merely providing them information," said said HLN's Dr. Drew Pinsky, who  who has hosted reunion shows for "Teen Mom" and "16 and Pregnant" cast members, and come to know a few of them personally.

"Changing their behavior requires a relate-able source, somebody like them, a story they can dig into," said Dr. Drew.

"16 and Pregnant" is the controversial and highly rated MTV show that exposes the "oh-so-glamorous-side" of being a teen mom. The show documents the lives of different teen mothers through all the stages of their pregnancies and after their babies are born.

Experts who reviewed the findings say there is no way to know whether teens who watched the show were more likely to avoid unprotected sex. But they say there is a link between areas with high viewership and lower birth rates.

Long before this show, millions and millions of dollars have gone toward teen pregnancy awareness campaigns. Dr. Drew said he is not surprised that the MTV reality shows have made a dent in preventing teen pregnancies.

"I've been watching the decline since the very quarter this show first hit the air, and I knew it was having an impact," said Dr. Drew. "Teen pregnancy right now is at its lowest its been since the 1940s."

"This study now bears out that a significant percentage of that drop and that rate of that decline is due to media," said Dr. Drew. "We have to create media that creates the kind of behavior that we hope for in a healthier direction."

The producers of the MTV show have repeatedly said their goal is to discourage teens from having babies by revealing all the hardships and sacrifices that come with parenthood. Since its debut, it has been criticized by some for turning teenage mothers into stars, and perhaps enticing young viewers to get pregnant for their shot at fame.

"That is an empty claim. What I will tell the people who insist on that kind of criticism is, 'You are implying that young people are dumb, and they're sick.' And the fact is young people are bright, and if you give them the right information, they adjust, they know how to use that information," said Dr. Drew.

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