ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Diane CoffeySubscribe to RSS - Diane Coffey

Understanding Open Defecation in Rural India

India has far higher open defecation rates than other developing regions where people are poorer, literacy rates are lower, and water is relatively more scarce. In practice, government programmes in rural India have paid little attention in understanding why so many rural Indians defecate in the open rather than use affordable pit latrines. Drawing on new data, a study points out that widespread open defecation in rural India is on account of beliefs, values, and norms about purity, pollution, caste, and untouchability that cause people to reject affordable latrines. Future rural sanitation programmes must address villagers’ ideas about pollution, pit-emptying, and untouchability, and should do so in ways that accelerate progress towards social equality for Dalits rather than delay it.

Wealth and Health of Children in India

What are the relationships between wealth and children's health in India's states that are as populous as many other countries? Presenting a state-level analysis of the association between state net domestic product per capita and three children's health indicators, this paper describes how these relationships differ in the last two rounds of the National Family Health Survey. It finds evidence that the cross-sectional relationships between aggregate wealth and children's health indicators are positive, yet the association was less steep in the mid-2000s than in the late 1990s. It also finds a negative relationship between growth in SNDP per capita and improvement in state-level children's health indicators. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the kinds of investments which improve health may lead to economic growth, rather than vice versa.

Stunting among Children

Indian children are very short, on average, compared with children living in other countries. Because height reflects early life health and net nutrition, and because good early life health also helps brains to grow and capabilities to develop, widespread growth faltering is a human development...

Revealed Preference for Open Defecation

Despite economic growth, government latrine construction, and increasing recognition among policymakers that open defecation constitutes a health and human capital crisis, it remains stubbornly widespread in rural India. We present evidence from new survey data collected in Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Many survey respondents' behaviour reveals a preference for open defecation: over 40% of households with a working latrine have at least one member who defecates in the open. Our data predict that if the government were to build a latrine for every rural household that lacks one, without changing sanitation preferences, most people in our sample in these states would nevertheless defecate in the open. Policymakers in India must lead a large-scale campaign to promote latrine use.
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