We work in India, where more than half of the population defecates in the open without using any toilet or latrine. Indeed, 60% of all people in the world who practice open defecation live in India, and one in eight of all people anywhere who defecate in the open live in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where we work.
Open defecation has terrible consequences for child health. Exposure to environmental germs stunts children’s physical and cognitive growth, leading to a population of adult workers less healthy and less productive than they otherwise could be.
Our sanitation research focuses on two questions:
- How much of the exceptional stunting of Indian children’s growth can be explained by widespread open defecation? How much healthier would children be if their neighbors practiced better sanitation?
- How can the Indian government – and communities throughout India – successfully improve sanitation and reduce open defecation, a common and habitual behavior?
A good place to start learning more about our work is to read some of our policy articles:
- A newspaper op-ed in The Hindu: “The long and short of open defecation”
- A four-page policy brief about our international height research
- A short perspectives paper drafted for a Public Health Foundation of India conference
Interested in learning more? Go to our research page, or read these papers:
- How much international variation in child height can sanitation explain?
- Village sanitation externalities and children’s human capital: Evidence from a randomized experiment by the Maharashtra government
- Effects of Rural Sanitation on Infant Mortality and Human Capital: Evidence from India’s Total Sanitation Campaign
- Effects of Early-Life Exposure to Rural Sanitation on Childhood Cognitive Skills: Evidence from India’s Total Sanitation Campaign