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Up in Smoke: The Influence of Household Behavior on the Long-Run Impact of Improved Cooking Stoves

  • Duflo, Esther C.
  • Hanna, Rema N.
  • Greenstone, Michael

It is conventional wisdom that it is possible to reduce exposure to indoor air pollution, improve health outcomes, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the rural areas of developing countries through the adoption of improved cooking stoves. This belief is largely supported by observational field studies and engineering or laboratory experiments. However, we provide new evidence, from a randomized control trial conducted in rural Orissa, India (one of the poorest places in India), on the benefits of a commonly used improved stove that laboratory tests showed to reduce indoor air pollution and require less fuel. We track households for up to four years after they received the stove. While we find a meaningful reduction in smoke inhalation in the first year, there is no effect over longer time horizons. We find no evidence of improvements in lung functioning or health and there is no change in fuel consumption (and presumably greenhouse gas emissions). The difference between the laboratory and field findings appear to result from households’ revealed low valuation of the stoves. Households failed to use the stoves regularly or appropriately, did not make the necessary investments to maintain them properly, and usage rates ultimately declined further over time. More broadly, this study underscores the need to test environmental and health technologies in real-world settings where behavior may temper impacts, and to test them over a long enough horizon to understand how this behavioral effect evolves over time.

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Paper provided by Harvard Kennedy School of Government in its series Scholarly Articles with number 8694934.

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Date of creation: 08 May 2012
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Publication status: Published in HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series
Handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:8694934
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  1. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "Air Quality, Infant Mortality, and the Clean Air Act of 1970," Working Papers 0406, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
  2. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 1999. "The Impact of Air Pollution on Infant Mortality: Evidence from Geographic Variation in Pollution Shocks Induced by a Recession," NBER Working Papers 7442, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Seema Jayachandran, 2009. "Air Quality and Early-Life Mortality: Evidence from Indonesia’s Wildfires," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(4).
  4. Oliva, Paulina & Arceo, Eva & Hanna, Rema N., 2012. "Does the Effect of Pollution on Infant Mortality Differ Between Developing and Developed Countries? Evidence from Mexico City," Scholarly Articles 9924083, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  5. repec:emc:wpaper:dte-546 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Theresa Beltramo & David I. Levine, 2013. "The effect of solar ovens on fuel use, emissions and health: results from a randomised controlled trial," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(2), pages 178-207, June.
  7. Janet Currie & Matthew Neidell, 2005. "Air Pollution and Infant Health: What Can We Learn from California's Recent Experience?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1003-1030, August.
  8. Pascaline Dupas, 2011. "Health Behavior in Developing Countries," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 3(1), pages 425-449, 09.
  9. Sylvain Chassang & Gerard Padro i Miquel & Erik Snowberg, 2010. "Selective Trials: A Principal-Agent Approach to Randomized Controlled Experiments," NBER Working Papers 16343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Duggan, Mark, 2005. "Do new prescription drugs pay for themselves?: The case of second-generation antipsychotics," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 1-31, January.
  11. Bensch, Gunther & Peters, Jörg, 2012. "A Recipe for Success? Randomized Free Distribution of Improved Cooking Stoves in Senegal," Ruhr Economic Papers 325, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (RWI), Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
  12. Michael Kremer & Jessica Leino & Edward Miguel & Alix Peterson Zwane, 2011. "Spring Cleaning: Rural Water Impacts, Valuation, and Property Rights Institutions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 145-205.
  13. Eva Olimpia Arceo Gómez & Rema Hanna & Paulina Oliva, 2012. "Does the Effect of Pollution on Infant Mortality Differ Between Developed and Developing Countries? Evidence from Mexico City," Working papers DTE 546, CIDE, División de Economía.
  14. repec:rwi:repape:0325 is not listed on IDEAS
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