How many kids? Don’t you have a tv?

That is what I say to my mates who have more than two kids…i am always joking…but it seems like many things it has some basis in fact.

Source: Martin Lewis

Source: Martin Lewis

India’s population will overtake China’s by 2021, putting a huge strain on resources and public services. And though the country’s overall birth rate has fallen a lot, it’s still explosive in rural areas (pdf).

So how to get rural women to have fewer children? As we just discussed, coercive sterilization is probably not the best way to go. But things you might expect to bring the birth rate down, like higher female literacy or urbanization, don’t necessarily seem to do so, as Stanford professor Martin Lewis explains

However, there’s one kinda bizarre thing that does correlate with lower fertility: cable TV.

Over a three-year period, academics Robert Jensen and Emily Oster researched rural villages in five Indian states. They found that once the village got cable TV access, fertility declined within a year (pdf)

Apparently this is also evidenced in Brazil:

This has happened elsewhere too. Fertility dropped markedly as more and more Brazilian villages got on the cable grid (pdf) from 1970 to 1999, according to research by academics Eliana La Ferrara, Alberto Chong, and Suzanne Duryea. Here’s how birth rates declined in Brazil over the years that cable availability spread.


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  • peterwn

    George Orwell recognised something similar in 1948 when he wrote ‘1984’. The Government needed a means of keeping the masses contented and this was achieved through mass TV entertainment (few people had TV in 1948) called ‘prolefeed’.

    • IWantToBeLikeMallardOneDay

      We have plebfeed in NZ. Lots of cooking and home renovation shows as well as poorly researched sob stories masquerading as current affairs.

      • parorchestia

        Gasp – you mean reality TV isn’t?

        • IWantToBeLikeMallardOneDay

          Reality TV isn’t masquerading as current affairs? We’re not quite that far down the tubes yet my friend :-p

  • Harvey Wilson

    Here’s how to arrest the population explosion in 3rd world countries. At birth they should cut the dicks off 90% of male babies. Simple really. God, why do I have to all the thinking round here.

    • parorchestia

      It’s females that determine birth rates, so corks might be better?

  • parorchestia

    Great blog – loved it.