You know what has the power to dramatically improve women’s lives? Brazilian soap operas.


Earlier I posted about how satellite TV decreased domestic violence in India and improved female autonomy. It seems that Brazilian soap operas might have similar effects.

This paper focuses on fertility choices in Brazil, a country where soap operas (novelas) portray families that are much smaller than in reality, to study the effects of television on individual behavior. Using Census data for the period 1970-1991, the paper finds 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. Finally, the paper provides evidence that novelas, rather than television in general, affected individual choices.

Source: “Soap Operas and Fertility: Evidence from Brazil” from Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department, Working Paper #633

Lower fertility is usually a big first step towards autonomy for women from low socio-economic areas. Another big factor is if women feel empowered to leave bad marriages. Well guess what:

This paper studies the link between television and divorce in Brazil by exploiting variation in the timing of availability of the signal of Rede Globo—the network that had a virtual monopoly on telenovelas in the country—across municipal areas. Using three rounds of Census data (1970, 1980 and 1991) and controlling for area fixed effects and for time-varying characteristics, the paper finds that the share of women who are separated or divorced increases significantly after the Globo signal becomes available. The effect is robust to controlling for potential determinants of Globo’s entry strategy and is stronger for relatively smaller areas, where the signal reaches a higher fraction of the population.

Source: “Television and Divorce: Evidence from Brazilian Novelas” from Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department, Working Paper #651

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