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Poisoning the mind: Arsenic contamination of drinking water wells and children's educational achievement in rural Bangladesh

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  • Asadullah, M. Niaz
  • Chaudhury, Nazmul

Abstract

Bangladesh has experienced the largest mass poisoning of a population in history owing to contamination of groundwater with naturally occurring inorganic arsenic. Prolonged drinking of such water risks development of diseases and therefore has implications for children's cognitive and psychological development. This study examines the effect of arsenic contamination of tubewells, the primary source of drinking water at home, on the learning outcome of school-going children in rural Bangladesh using recent nationally representative data on secondary school children. We unambiguously find a negative and statistically significant correlation between mathematics scores and arsenic-contaminated drinking tubewells at home, net of the child's socio-economic status, parental background and school specific unobserved correlates of learning. Similar correlations are found for an alternative measure of student achievement and subjective well-being (i.e. self-reported measure of life satisfaction), of the student. We conclude by discussing the policy implication of our findings in the context of the current debate over the adverse effect of arsenic poisoning on children.

Suggested Citation

  • Asadullah, M. Niaz & Chaudhury, Nazmul, 2011. "Poisoning the mind: Arsenic contamination of drinking water wells and children's educational achievement in rural Bangladesh," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 873-888, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:30:y:2011:i:5:p:873-888
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    Cited by:

    1. Chowdhury, Shyamal & Krause, Annabelle & Zimmermann, Klaus F, 2015. "Arsenic Contamination of Drinking Water and Mental Health," CEPR Discussion Papers 10978, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Saing, Chan Hang & Cannonier, Colin, 2017. "Arsenic Exposure and School Participation in Cambodia," GLO Discussion Paper Series 95, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    3. Zhou, Li & Turvey, Calum G., 2018. "Drinking water and off-farm labour supply: between-gender and within-gender bias," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 62(1), January.
    4. Klaus F. Zimmermann, 2016. "Health shocks and well-being," The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, Springer;The Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE), vol. 59(1), pages 155-164, March.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Drinking water pollution Schooling Subjective well-being Bangladesh;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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