Mass media and public services : the effects of radio access on public education in Benin
Does radio access improve public service provision? And if so, does it do so by increasing government accountability to citizens, or by persuading households to take advantage of publicly-provided services? Prior research has argued that citizens with greater access to mass media receive greater benefits from targeted government welfare programs, but has not addressed these questions for public services such as in education and health. Using unique data from Benin, this paper finds that literacy rates among school children are higher in villages exposed to signals from a larger number of community radio stations. The effect is identified based on a"natural experiment"in the northern communes of Benin where within-commune variation in village access to radio stations is exogenous to observed and unobserved village characteristics. In contrast to prior research, the authors find that this media effect does not operate through government accountability: government inputs into village schools and household knowledge of government education policies are no different in villages with greater access to community radio. Instead, households with greater access are more likely to make financial investments in the education of their children.
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