DP6785 Soap Operas and Fertility: Evidence from Brazil

Author(s): Alberto Chong, Suzanne Duryea, Eliana La Ferrara
Publication Date: April 2008
Keyword(s): development, fertility, television
JEL(s): J13, O12
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=6785

What are the effects of television, and of role models portrayed in TV programs, on individual behavior? We focus on fertility choices in Brazil, a country where soap operas (novelas) portray families that are much smaller than in reality. We exploit differences in the timing of entry into different markets of Rede Globo, the network that has an effective monopoly on novelas production in this country. Using Census data for the period 1970-1991, we find that women living in areas covered by the Globo signal have significantly lower fertility. The effect is strongest for women of lower socioeconomic status and for women in the central and late phases of their fertility cycle, consistent with stopping behavior. The result is robust to placebo treatments and does not appear to be driven by selection in Globo entry. Finally, we provide suggestive evidence that novelas, and not just television, affected individual choices. First, people living in areas covered by the signal were more likely to name their children after novela characters. Second, entry of a network that relied on imported shows did not have a significant impact on fertility.