Private Television Raises Women's Status in India

In India, access to private cable television has promoted female autonomy, say the authors a National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper.

According to the author's survey of villages in rural India:

  • In areas that never had cable, or always had it, there was little change in television watching over time and little recorded change in attitudes.

  • The villages that added cable were associated with improvements in measures of women's autonomy, a reduction in the number of situations in which wife beating was deemed acceptable, and a reduction in the likelihood of wanting the next child to be a boy.

    And, the effects were quite large:

  • In a sample in which the average education level was 3.5 years, introducing cable appeared to have the same effects on attitudes towards female autonomy as 5.5 years of education.

  • Cable also increased the likelihood that a girl aged 6 to 10 years would be enrolled in school, although it had no effect for boys, and cut the yearly increase in the number of children or pregnancies among women of childbearing age.

    Overall, the authors conclude that perhaps cable television, with programming that features lifestyles in both urban areas and in other countries, is an effective form of persuasion because people emulate what they perceive to be desirable behaviours and attitudes, without the need for an explicit appeal to do so.

    Source: Linda Gorman, Cable Television Raises Women's Status in India, NBER Digest, December 2007; based upon: Robert Jensen and Emily Oster, The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women's Status in India, Working Paper No. 13305, National Bureau of Economic Research, July 30, 2007.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 18 December 2007
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