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Improving sanitation is a policy priority for children’s human capital in rural India: lessons from recent literature and the IHDS

Research, Sanitation1 min read

Author: Dean Spears

Published in: Undernutrition and Public Policy in India

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The first part of this chapter reviews evidence from the literature of a large effect of open defecation on child height that can account for important international differences. The second part of the chapter presents new empirical results using the rural part of the India Human Development Survey (IHDS). This cross-sectional evidence is not individually conclusive, but presents useful suggestive evidence because the IHDS combines in one survey anthropometric and cognitive measurements, information on sanitation and economic details that are not available in Demographic and Health Surveys’ data about India.

Taken together, the converging evidence suggests that reducing open defecation by promoting safe latrine use will be a necessary and important component of a multi-sector policy effort towards reducing stunting in India and improving the economic productivity, cognitive achievement and health of future generations.


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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