research and policy advocacy for health & wellbeing in India.

Sanitation

Exploring the causes and consequences of widespread open defecation in India

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Sanitation

Social Inequality

Understanding how social discrimination impacts child and maternal health in rural India

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Social Inequality

Maternal Health

Exploring challenges and policy responses to adequate nutrition in motherhood to improve child health

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Maternal Health

Dean’s paper on Caste and Life Satisfaction in EPW

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Dean’s new paper on ‘Caste and Life Satisfaction’ got published in Economic and Political Weekly this week. The paper shows one of the evidence on relevance of caste in North India. Dean has used SQUAT data to show relationship of caste to a person’s life satisfaction and notion of well being.In addition to reporting the differences in life satisfaction across caste categories in rural North India, where the Dalits and Other Backward Classes experience lower levels of life satisfaction as compared to the upper castes, the article also examines whether these differences can be accounted for merely by the association of caste with poverty.

Find the full article here.

 

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Reflections on the SBM and maternity entitlements

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Rahul Jacob wrote a piece today in the Business Standard, highlighting r.i.c.e.’s research and calling on the government to convince people to use latrines if the SBM is to have any impact on public health, rather than simply meeting latrine building targets.  See the article here.

Also, we’ve recently been thinking more about maternity entitlements - check out Diane and my op-ed in the Hindu here.

Diane’s research shows the depth of poor maternal nutrition in India, which leads to low birth weights and high rates of child malnutrition, and poor health, cognition, and productivity later in life.  The 2013 National Food Security Act mandates a maternity entitlement of 6,000 Rs. to pregnant women, which we argue is an important opportunity to improve maternal nutrition.  In reality, however, the benefit has only been implemented as a pilot in very few districts. And rather than being applied universally, as stated in the law, its structure disproportionately leaves out many poor and minority women.  Arguments against universalization are based on misguided concerns that government programs which give cash transfers to mothers will increase fertility, but there is no evidence showing that such small amounts of money will actually motivate a family to have another child.

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Preventing climate change is pro-poor

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Two pieces of news today.  First, a new paper in PNAS by Francis Dennig,  Mark Budolfson, Marc Fleurbaey, Asher Siebert, and Robert H. Socolow: Inequality, climate impacts on the future poor, and carbon prices.  It is available for free at that link.

Economists use computer models to figure out how policy today should optimally take into consideration the threat of climate change making people worse off in the future: it’s obvious that we should reduce our carbon emissions, but by how much?  How much of the economic benefit that people enjoy today should be sacrificed to prevent harm in the future?

What Dennig and coauthors realized is that the leading models of climate policy treat everybody living in a place the same way, and therefore don’t incorporate the likelihood that climate change could hurt poor people most.  If it is true that climate change will hurt the poor the most, they show, then governments today should be doing even a lot more to prevent climate change than we thought.

The second is a piece of mine published today in Business Standard: Preventing climate change is pro-poor.  I review a recent book published by the World Bank —

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Watch Angus Deaton’s Nobel lecture online Tuesday

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Angus Deaton’s Nobel lecture is Tuesday.  You can watch it online here, at the Nobel prize website.

The lecture is at 1:30 pm Central European Time.  To make life easier on everyone in r.i.c.e., that’s:

  • 6:00 pm here in India,
  • 7:30 am for board members John and Louis in the U.S. east, and everyone in Princeton,
  • 6:30 am for Mike in Texas,
  • 4:30 am for Josephine in California, and, of course,
  • 1:30 pm for Nicholas in France.
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Who is representing the most powerless Indians in Paris?

Today the Indian Express published my op-ed: Question from a future India.  The question I imagine is from the future Indians who will be so profoundly impacted by the decisions at this week’s climate summit in Paris: who was politically representing them?

The science of climate change is unambiguous.  So is the public economics: carbon emissions have terrible social costs, and these externalities should be reflected in price.  The only question is the politics.

A climate summit like this week’s in Paris emphasizes the international dimension of climate politics.  But, as philosopher Stephen Gardiner has emphasized, this obscures two other dimensions of climate politics.  The first is within countries, such as between the Democratic U.S. presidents and Republican U.S. legislatures which demography tells us we can expect for much of the coming years of crucial climate politics.  Or, between richer metropolitan Indians with air conditioners and airplane flights and poorer Indians with inadequate electricity and high infant mortality.

The second dimension of climate politics that an international summit obscures is perhaps the most important, and is the focus of my op-ed: the relatively few people in the present generation against the (I hope) many,

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New review of Joshua Greene’s Moral Tribes in EPW

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This week, Economic and Political Weekly published my review of Joshua Greene’s book Moral Tribes.  The review begins by considering the arguments Greene makes for the implications of moral psychology for ethics: perhaps many of our ethical intuitions are as psychological explicable as our faulty responses to optical illusions (such as the one pictured) and are equally (un)creditworthy.

I then consider the special implications of Greene’s research for India.  Part of Greene’s argument is that we should expect people to have a posture of automatic cooperation with people whom they consider fellow members of an in-group, but not with people whom they consider to be part of an out-group.  Perhaps, because India is so thoroughly socially partitioned by caste, religion, gender, age, and hierarchical rank of all types, this psychological research gives reason to expect that many people’s automatic moral intuitions may be less cooperative or charitable in India, on average, than in less fragmented societies.   The exact same moral psychology could produce a different outcome if exposed to a different level of social fragmentation.

Beyond its implications for India, Greene’s project has considerable significance for some of the most important issues of our times.  For example (as Greene is certainly not the first to note) climate change may not tug at our emotions because many of the people who will suffer most will live decades or centuries from now,

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