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Parents, Television and Cultural Change

This paper develops a model of cultural transmission where television plays a central role for socialization. Parents split their free time between educating their children, which is costly, and watching TV which though entertaining might socialize the children to the wrong trait. The free to air television industry maximizes advertisement revenue. We show that TV watching is increasing in cultural coverage, cost of education, TV’s entertainment value and decreasing in the perceived cultural distance between the two traits. A monopolistic television industry captures all TV watching by both groups if the perceived cultural distance between groups is small relative to the TV’s entertainment value. Otherwise, more coverage will be given to the most profitable group where profitability increases in group size, advertisement sensitivity and perceived cultural distance. This leads to two possible steady states where one group is larger but both groups survive in the long run. Competition in the media industry might lead to cultural extinction but only if one group is very insensitive to advertisement and not radical enough not to watch TV. We briefly discuss the existing evidence for the empirical predictions of the model.

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Paper provided by Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy in its series CSEF Working Papers with number 280.

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Date of creation: 05 Apr 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in The Economic Journal, 2014, 124(579), 1040-1065
Handle: RePEc:sef:csefwp:280
Contact details of provider: Postal: I-80126 Napoli
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Fax: +39 081 - 675372
Web page: http://www.csef.it/
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  1. Eliana La Ferrara & Alberto Chong & Suzanne Duryea, 2008. "Soap Operas and Fertility: Evidence from Brazil," Research Department Publications 4573, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  2. Ana Cardoso & Elsa Fontainha & Chiara Monfardini, 2010. "Children’s and parents’ time use: empirical evidence on investment in human capital in France, Germany and Italy," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 479-504, December.
  3. Maria Saez-Marti & Anna Sjögren, 2007. "Peers and Culture," IEW - Working Papers 349, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. DellaVigna, Stefano & Kaplan, Ethan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," Seminar Papers 748, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  5. Disdier, Anne-Célia & Head, Keith & Mayer, Thierry, 2010. "Exposure to foreign media and changes in cultural traits: Evidence from naming patterns in France," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 226-238, March.
  6. Peitz, Martin & Valletti, Tommaso M., 2008. "Content and advertising in the media: Pay-tv versus free-to-air," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 949-965, July.
  7. Crawford, Gregory S. & Cullen, Joseph, 2007. "Bundling, product choice, and efficiency: Should cable television networks be offered a la carte?," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 19(3-4), pages 379-404, October.
  8. Robert Jensen & Emily Oster, 2009. "The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women's Status in India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(3), pages 1057-1094, August.
  9. repec:fth:iniesr:564 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Eliana La Ferrara & Alberto E. Chong, 2009. "Television and Divorce: Evidence from Brazilian Novelas," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 6760, Inter-American Development Bank.
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