Friday, September 07, 2007

TV: Bad For Your Kids, Good For Indian Women

A study by Emily Oster, an economist at the University of Chicago, reports that introducing cable television into the homes of rural women in India results in:

women [being] less likely to report that domestic violence towards women is acceptable. They also report increased autonomy (for example, the ability to go out without permission and to participate in household decision-making). Women are less likely to report son preference (the desire to give birth to a boy rather than a girl). Turning to behaviors, we find increases in school enrollment for girls (but not boys), and decreases in fertility (which is often linked to female autonomy).
The effect is also large relative to, for example, the effect of education on these attitudes and behaviors: introducing cable television is equivalent to roughly five years of female education in the cross section. These effects happen very quickly; the average village has cable for only 6-7 months before being surveyed again, which implies a rapid change in attitudes.
Oster surmises, although she admits it's difficult to identify the actual causal relationship, that it exposure to attitudes and experiences different from their own that makes the difference. At root, this is the basic logic behind globalization and more specifically the policy of engagement that the US has adopted towards China. By exposing people to the values and lifestyle of western modernity, they will, in turn, become more like us, especially in their attitudes towards liberal policies.

Who knew that crappy TV could be such a powerful force for good?

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