research institute for compassionate economics

Thanks to new friends at LBSNAA

Written by Dean Spears on July 13th, 2012

Yesterday I had the fun opportunity to present my sanitation research at LBSNAA, the training institute for Indian Administrative Service officers. We met with the 2010 class, almost finished with their two years of training. These folks will go on to very powerful jobs: one of them will one day become District Magistrate of Sitapur, becoming the chief executive of a place with a larger population than many countries. I had fun, was impressed, and was a little homesick: they reminded me of the MPA students at the Woodrow Wilson School.

They asked great questions. For example, how did I know that my results were really due to the Total Sanitation Campaign, and not to other government programs going on at the same time? There are good answers, but the point is that that is exactly what an economist should want to be asking. We talked some about associations among children’s height and exposure to disease. A few asked about whether Indian people are genetically shorter than people in other places. There is persuasive evidence that this isn’t what accounts for how short Indian children are, on average, but it wasn’t an absurd question to ask: until recently, it was debated in the literature.

I was also excited to see how many women were in the class: not nearly half, but a much higher percentage than in, say, Princeton’s PhD in economics.

So, if any of you from LBSNAA are reading this, thanks for the fun day (and the nice tie)! Let’s keep in touch. And keep learning about the economics of children’s health and the life-long effects of early disease on health and productivity. It is a big problem here in India, but there is much that you could do about it, and very little could be more important.