research institute for compassionate economics

Neighborhood Sanitation and Infant Mortality

Ending open defecation in the developing world has gained significant policy attention recently, motivated by the idea that private demand for latrines lies below the social optimum. We investigate the mortality externalities of poor sanitation by exploiting differences in latrine demand between Muslim and Hindu households in India: Muslims, despite being poorer, are 25 percentage points more likely than Hindus to use latrines or toilets. Instrumenting for local sanitation with the religious composition of neighborhoods, we estimate large infant mortality externalities. Our findings are informative of the external harm generated by the one billion people today who practice open defecation.

Download Published: Working Paper       Geography: India