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Measuring open defecation in India using survey questions: evidence from a randomized survey experiment published in BMJ Open

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BMJ Open published "Measuring open defecation in India using survey questions: evidence from a randomized survey experiment"  co-authored by  Sangita, Nikhil, Dean and Diane (with Divya Mary, Neeta Goel, Sujatha Srinivasan, Ajaykumar Tannirkulam and Radu Ban).

Reducing open defecation in India is essential to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, and exposure to open defecation has consequences for child mortality and development, it is essential to accurately monitor its progress.

Open Defecation is an individual behaviour, consequently,  an individual-level survey question may be able to more accurately measure it compared with a household-level question, particularly among households with latrines. This study presents results from an experimental investigation of this hypothesis in rural India. The objective of the experiment was to investigate whether a balanced question about latrine use or open defecation for every member of a household finds different levels of open defecation compared with a household-level question.

The study shows that reported open defecation among all households is 20-21 percentage points higher in individual-level questions compared to the house-hold level questions.  Moreover, among households that received assistance to construct latrines, reported open defecation is 28-29 percentage points higher.  Thus, individual-level questions measure open defecation more accurately than household-level questions.

r.i.c.e congratulates Nikhil and Sangita for working very hard on this project! Read the entire article here.


r.i.c.e. is a non-profit research organization focused on health and well-being in India. Our core focus is on children in rural north India. Our research studies health care at the start of life, sanitation, air pollution, maternal health, social inequality, and other dimensions of population-level social wellbeing.

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