Neighborhood Sanitation and Infant Mortality

Michael Geruso, Dean Spears
2015 Social Science Research Network  
Ending open defecation has become a target for policy and spending by governments, NGOs, and private foundations in recent years, in part motivated by the belief that private demand for latrines and toilets is below the social optimum. We shed new light on the infant mortality externalities of neighbors' latrine use by exploiting differences in the demand for latrines between Muslim and Hindu households in India: Indian Muslims are 25 percentage points more likely than Indian Hindus to use
more » ... nes or toilets, despite the minority Muslim population being poorer and having lower education on average. We find that increasing Muslim concentration in a neighborhood, which strongly predicts the fraction of neighbors using latrines, is associated with a large infant survival advantage. The external effects of neighbors' latrine use are similar irrespective of a household's own latrine use or own religion. We show that other observables are either flat as the Muslim share of a neighborhood increases, or are changing in a way that would predict worse child health. The externalities we document are important since as of 2014, more than a billion people (15% of the world's population) continue to defecate in the open. . 2015. "Effectiveness of a rural sanitation programme on diarrhoea, soil-transmitted helminth infection, and child malnutrition in Odisha, India: a cluster-randomised trial." The Lancet Global Health, 2(11): e645-e653.
doi:10.2139/ssrn.2605479 fatcat:u2ek7jwr75fv5bdj2rzfr5a6ei