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Stereotypes about soap operas have been flying around since their 1952 television debut, but never once has it been uttered that watching passionate and steamy daytime sudsers can actually reduce fertility rates — until now!

According to a study that looked at the correlation between fertility rates and television viewing habits (by Eliana La Ferrara, Alberto Chong and Suzanne Duryea), soap operas — or telenovelas — are specifically to thank for Brazil’s recent decline in birth rates!

“We focus on fertility choices in Brazil, a country where soap operas (novelas) portray families that are much smaller than in reality,” the study states. “We provide suggestive evidence that novelas, and not just television, affected individual choices.”

The findings were so persuasive that Stanford University’s Martin Lewis published a piece in The Breakthrough calling for more soap operas to be disseminated throughout Africa, a country that is suffering from extremely high birth rates and overpopulation. “Fertility rates remain stubbornly high across tropical Africa. The analysis presented here would suggest that the best way to bring them down would be a three-pronged effort: female education, broad-based economic and social development, and mass electrification followed by the dissemination of soap-opera-heavy television,” he writes. “As it is, Africa’s television market is growing rapidly, but much of the programming so far has been heavily oriented toward sports. One can only hope that Nollywood (Nigeria’s Hollywood) and other African entertainment centers can provide the women-focused, locally appealing telenovelas that have been so strongly associated elsewhere with fertility reduction.”

With so many affairs, pregnancies and “who’s-the-daddy?” storylines typically seen on soaps, we’d never have guessed! Would you?

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