Rapid population increase has long been a concern of the global community. China has boasted highest population for many years, but by 2021, India will take that title. Although India’s overall birthrate has fallen over the years, the birthrate in rural areas is not decreasing. This is putting a huge strain on India due to lack of resources to support its enormous population.
So what is India doing its population boom? Well, officials strongly advise couples to keep their number of kids to a minimum, and recently they’ve been coercing many women in poorer villages to get sterilized.
But two researchers have found a much cheaper (and less painful) way to convince these women to stop having children. For three years, Robert Jensen and Emily Oster researched rural villages in India, and they came up with this surprising piece of information: once the village got cable TV, the fertility rate went down. But it’s not the access to TV in general that affects the birthrate, it’s access to soap operas.
Many Indian soap operas feature independent, successful women, causing viewers to strive for those lives. Once women see the benefits of a childless life as demonstrated by their TV companions they tend to not want as many children.
Cable has not only decreased the fertility rate in rural areas, but it has also changed cultural values. Fewer women who now have access to cable find it acceptable for a man to abuse his wife, or have a preference for male children.
So will the Indian government take the hint and start providing everyone with cable and a plethora of soap operas starring successful, childless women? Only time will tell… but it’s certainly preferable to their current invasive tactics.
Sources and resources: To read Jensen and Oster’s research, click here. For more information on the effects of soap operas on population growth, click here.