This article studies the impact of television on academic performance and a plausible mechanism behind this effect: whether television changes time use. I identify a causal effect by using a natural experiment that consists in the staggered introduction of the digital television signal in the British television market. The digital switchover leads to an increase in television viewing time but does not change television contents. I find that the digital switchover increases academic performance, contributing to human capital formation, and that the effect is larger for schools at the bottom of the score distribution, reducing educational inequality. I also show that the digital switchover decreases the probability of children taking part in detrimental activities such as alcohol drinking, and their frequency. I test for alternative mechanisms, but do not find an effect of television on time dedicated to homework neither behaviour. The results point that the true determinant of academic achievement is the relative educational value of out-of-school activities, rather than the absolute one.
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Please note: this is a revised version of 2017-01
Adrián Nieto Castro
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School of EconomicsUniversity of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD
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