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Do informed citizens receive more...or pay more ? the impact of radio on the government distribution of public health benefits

  • Keefer, Philip
  • Khemani, Stuti

The government provision of free or subsidized bed nets to combat malaria in Benin allows the identification of new channels through which mass media affect public policy outcomes. Prior research has concluded that governments provide greater private benefits to better-informed individuals. This paper shows, for the first time, that governments can also respond by exploiting informed individuals'greater willingness to pay for these benefits. Using a"natural experiment"in radio markets in northern Benin, the paper finds that media access increases the likelihood that households pay for the bed nets they receive from government, rather than getting them for free. Households more exposed to radio programming on the benefits of bed nets and the hazards of malaria place a higher value on bed nets. Local government officials exercise significant discretion over bed net pricing and respond to higher demand by selling bed nets that they could have distributed for free. Mass media appears to change the private behavior of citizens -- in this case, to invest more of their own resources on a public health good (bed nets) -- but not their ability to extract greater benefits from government.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5952.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 2012
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5952
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  1. Pascaline Dupas, 2009. "What Matters (and What Does Not) in Households' Decision to Invest in Malaria Prevention?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 224-30, May.
  2. Ritva Reinikka & Jakob Svensson, 2005. "Fighting Corruption to Improve Schooling: Evidence from a Newspaper Campaign in Uganda," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 259-267, 04/05.
  3. Andrea Prat & David Strömberg, 2006. "Commercial Television and Voter Information," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000363, UCLA Department of Economics.
  4. Jessica Cohen & Pascaline Dupas, 2008. "Free Distribution or Cost-Sharing? Evidence from a Malaria Prevention Experiment," NBER Working Papers 14406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Keefer, Philip & Khemani, Stuti, 2003. "Democracy, public expenditures, and the poor," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3164, The World Bank.
  6. Vivian Hoffmann, 2009. "Intrahousehold Allocation of Free and Purchased Mosquito Nets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 236-41, May.
  7. Timothy Besley & Andrea Prat, 2006. "Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 720-736, June.
  8. Ritva Reinikka & Jakob Svensson, 2004. "Local Capture: Evidence From a Central Government Transfer Program in Uganda," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 678-704, May.
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