NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Economic and Social Impacts of the Media

Stefano DellaVigna, Eliana La Ferrara

NBER Working Paper No. 21360
Issued in July 2015
NBER Program(s):      CH   DEV   ED   EEE   HC   IO   LS   PE   POL

In this survey, we review the literature on the impact of exposure to the media. We cast a wide net and cover media impacts on education, family choices, labor and migration decisions, environmental choices, health, crime, public economics, attitudes, consumption and savings, and development economics. We stress five themes. First, the demand for entertainment plays a key role, with the economic impacts emerging largely as by-products. Second, to understand the media effects one cannot just focus on the direct effect of exposure but one needs to take into account the crowding-out of alternative activities (substitution effect). Third, the sources of identification play a critical role in determining what is known: credible estimates of short- and long run effects are available for some topics and some media but not for others. Fourth, most of the evidence on social and economic impacts is for exposure to the entertainment media such as television, as opposed to the printed press. Fifth, for the policy impacts both the substitution effect of media exposure and the demand for entertainment play an important role.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21360

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