Do Informed Citizens Receive More…Or Pay More? The Impact of Radio on the Government Distribution of Public Health Benefits

34 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2012

See all articles by Philip Keefer

Philip Keefer

Inter-American Development Bank

Stuti Khemani

World Bank; World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

Date Written: January 3, 2012

Abstract

The government provision of free or subsidized bed nets to combat malaria in Benin allows us to identify new channels through which mass media affect public policy outcomes. Prior research has concluded that governments provide greater private benefits to better-informed individuals. We show, 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, we find 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.

Keywords: mass media, radio, accountability, malaria, bednets

JEL Classification: I18, H51, D72, D73

Suggested Citation

Keefer, Philip and Khemani, Stuti, Do Informed Citizens Receive More…Or Pay More? The Impact of Radio on the Government Distribution of Public Health Benefits (January 3, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1978998 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1978998

Philip Keefer (Contact Author)

Inter-American Development Bank ( email )

1300 New York Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20577
United States
202-623-1961 (Phone)

Stuti Khemani

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

HOME PAGE: http://econ.worldbank.org/staff/skhemani

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

1818 H. Street, N.W.
MSN3-311
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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