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

Two r.i.c.e. articles in this week’s EPW!

Our article on pollution, latrine pits, and untouchability has been published in this week’s EPW! This article discusses the findings of the Switching Study, which we started several years ago. So it’s great to finally see this in print!

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, the article finds 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.

Access the article from EPW’s website here, or download it from our research page.

And congratulations to Avinash, one of our board members, and his colleagues, who also have an article published in this week’s EPW on policy options for making pulses more affordable!

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Four-part series on SARI in The Hindu!

The Hindu just ran a four-part series covering the Social Attitudes Research for India (SARI) Survey. SARI uses a sampling frame based on mobile phone subscriptions, random digit dialing, within-household sample selection, and statistical weights to build representative samples of adults 18-65 years old. So far, we’ve interviewed 1,270 adults in Delhi and 1,470 adults in Uttar Pradesh. Through this study, we are trying to learn about people’s perceptions and attitudes towards socially excluded groups, and experiences of discrimination faced by Dalits and Muslims.

In the first op-ed, Diane and Amit discuss perceptions of inter-caste marriage. About 40% of respondents in Delhi and more than 60% in rural Uttar Pradesh said that there should be laws to stop marriages between upper castes and lower castes.

In the second, they discuss how common it is for people to report that their household practices untouchability. Among non-Dalit Hindus in Delhi, a third said that someone in their household practices untouchability. In Uttar Pradesh, half of adults said that someone practices it.

In the third op-ed, Amit discusses the opposition of caste-based reservations, and the reasons people give for their opposition.

In the final op-ed,

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December 12: Join Sangita in a webinar addressing gender-related challenges in remote mobile data collection

r.i.c.e. has recently launched the Social Attitudes Research in India (SARI) phone survey to track social attitudes over time and experiences of discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, and religion in India.  We study discrimination and social exclusion because they play an important role in determining human development outcomes.  The Social Attitudes Research in India survey (SARI) is a tool that we hope will both raise awareness and influence policy.

The World Food Program is hosting a webinar addressing questions such as how to engage women when conducting surveys via mobile phone, biases that emerge from low female participation in surveys, and using mobile data collection methods to collect information on women’s experiences.   Join Sangita as she speaks about r.i.c.e.’s experiences in collecting data from women through mobile phones in India.

On Monday, December 12 at 9am EST/7:30pm IST, you can join the webinar here

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Mike at Penn

Mike Geruso, member of rice’s board, was the presenter yesterday at Penn’s Business Economics and Public Policy seminar series. He presented his research on “Upcoding: Evidence from Medicare on Squishy Risk Adjustment”, co-authored with Timothy Layton. I have read Mike’s papers, but never heard him speak. The talk was a reminder for me of the extreme relevance Mike’s research, and how clear he is in his writing, presentation, figures and tables. Do check out his working paper here. I am posting the abstract below.

Upcoding — manipulation of patient diagnoses in order to game payment systems — has gained significant attention following the introduction of risk adjustment into US insurance markets. We provide new evidence that enrollees in private Medicare plans generate 6% to 16% higher diagnosis-based risk scores than they would generate under fee-for-service Medicare, where diagnoses do not affect payments. Our estimates imply upcoding generates billions of dollars in excess public spending annually and significant consumer choice distortions. We show that coding intensity increases with vertical integration, reflecting a principal-agent problem faced by insurers, who desire more intense coding from the physicians with whom they contract....Read More..

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Grant window: Work with r.i.c.e. and 3ie to learn how to promote the use of SBM latrines!

We are delighted to announce that a grant window — in partnership with 3ie and the WASH team at the Gates Foundation — is now open for projects that can help us learn about how to promote the use of affordable pit latrines in rural India!  The Indian government, in its Swacch Bharat Mission, has announced plans to build about 100 million latrines throughout rural India.  This project is about finding ways to encourage people to use these latrines — strategies that build upon what is now known and being better understood about the social forces of caste, purity, pollution, and untouchability that prevent people from using and emptying normal latrine pits, and strategies that are affordable under the behavior change budget that is in principle allocated alongside the SBM latrine construction.

We are especially interested in interdisciplinary teams of social scientists, sanitation experts, and others all working together: perhaps an epidemiologist expert on sanitation, a sociologist familiar with the norms of caste in Indian villages, and an implementing organization with experience in making projects like this happen.  Our goal is to fund several projects at the same time so that we can compare and contrast what different teams are learning in different places with different strategies.  Importantly,

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