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Television Access Linked to Household Debt

NEW YORK: TV is blamed for a multitude of sins--obesity, vulgarity, violence. Now, researchers at the City University of New York have discovered that TV also makes people poor. Matthew Baker and Lisa George mapped out a relationship between exposure to television and household debt.

“We examine whether advertising increases household debt by studying the initial expansion of television in the 1950s. Exploiting the idiosyncratic spread of television across markets, we use microdata from the Survey of Consumer Finances to test whether households with early access to television saw steeper debt increases than households with delayed access. Results indicate that television increases the tendency to borrow for household goods and to carry debt. Television is associated with higher debt levels for durable goods, but not with total non-mortgage debt. The role of media in household debt may be greater than suggested by existing research,” the conclude in “The Role of Television in Households Debt: Evidence From the 1950s.”

Baker and George noted that people came out of World War II with “almost no debt. Household debt levels began rising steadily within a few years, then rapidly from the late 1970s into the present... The results indicate that television access is associated with a higher tendency to borrow to purchase consumer goods and a higher tendency to hold non-mortgage debt.”

They conclude that more access to TV is linked to a greater tendency to take on non-mortgage debt.

“Results also suggest that greater access to television is associated with higher levels of debt for durable goods, though not for total debt levels. We provide suggestive evidence that greater labor force participation might drive our results. Taken together, the theoretical and empirical results suggest a role for new research into the relationship between mass media advertising and debt.”

TV also...
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June 23, 2009: “...Makes People Tired
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June 2, 2009: “... Deteriorates Kids’ Ability to Talk”
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