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Arsenic Mitigation in Bangladesh: A Household Labor Market Approach

  • Richard Carson

    ()

    (University of California, San Diego)

  • Phoebe Koundouri

    (Dept. of International and European Economic Studies, Athens University of Economics and Business)

  • Celine Nauges

A major environmental tragedy of modern times is the widespread arsenic contamination of shallow drinking water wells in rural Bangladesh which went unrecognized for years. Large numbers of people are now starting to show a range of symptoms long associated with chronic arsenic exposure. Rural families in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, face financial risks from major illness both from the cost of medical care and from the loss of income associated with reduced labor supply and productivity. Because of the lack of comprehensive government assistance programs and formal insurance markets, most of these households have to rely on private, informal, insurance mechanisms. For the poor these typically take place at the household level. While arsenic-related health problems in Bangladesh have long received considerable attention (e.g., Smith, Lingas, and Rahman 2000), implications for the labor supply have not been examined. In this article, we look at the impacts of arsenic contamination on both the overall level of hours worked and the distribution of these hours within households. Using a large sample of rural households matched to arsenic exposure, we find (i) overall household labor supply is 8% smaller due to arsenic exposure and (ii) intra-household reallocation of work between males and females is used to self-insure against the risk induced by arsenic exposure.

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Paper provided by Athens University of Economics and Business in its series DEOS Working Papers with number 1130.

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Handle: RePEc:aue:wpaper:1130
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  1. Thomas, Duncan & Strauss, John, 1997. "Health and wages: Evidence on men and women in urban Brazil," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 159-185, March.
  2. Pitt, Mark M & Rosenzweig, Mark R, 1990. "Estimating the Intrahousehold Incidence of Illness: Child Health and Gender-Inequality in the Allocation of Time," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 31(4), pages 969-80, November.
  3. Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Harsha Thirumurthy & Markus Goldstein, 2006. "AIDS Treatment and Intrahousehold Resource Allocations: Children's Nutrition and Schooling in Kenya," NBER Working Papers 12689, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Skoufias, Emmanuel & Quisumbing, Agnes R., 2003. "Consumption insurance and vulnerability to poverty," FCND briefs 155, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  5. Paul Gertler & Jonathan Gruber, 1997. "Insuring Consumption Against Illness," NBER Working Papers 6035, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Madajewicz, Malgosia & Pfaff, Alexander & van Geen, Alexander & Graziano, Joseph & Hussein, Iftikhar & Momotaj, Hasina & Sylvi, Roksana & Ahsan, Habibul, 2007. "Can information alone change behavior? Response to arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 731-754, November.
  7. Jalan, Jyotsna & Ravallion, Martin, 1997. "Are the poor less well-insured? Evidence on vulnerability to income risk in rural China," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1863, The World Bank.
  8. Skoufias, Emmanuel & Quisumbing, Agnes R., 2004. "Consumption insurance and vulnerability to poverty : a synthesis of the evidence from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico and Russia," Social Protection Discussion Papers 29141, The World Bank.
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