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How much international variation in child height can sanitation explain ?

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  • Spears, Dean

Abstract

Physical height is an important economic variable reflecting health and human capital. Puzzlingly, however, differences in average height across developing countries are not well explained by differences in wealth. In particular, children in India are shorter, on average, than children in Africa who are poorer, on average, a paradox called"the Asian enigma"which has received much attention from economists. This paper provides the first documentation of a quantitatively important gradient between child height and sanitation that can statistically explain a large fraction of international height differences. This association between sanitation and human capital is robustly stable, even after accounting for other heterogeneity, such as in GDP. The author applies three complementary empirical strategies to identify the association between sanitation and child height: country-level regressions across 140 country-years in 65 developing countries; within-country analysis of differences over time within Indian districts; and econometric decomposition of the India-Africa height differences in child-level data. Open defecation, which is exceptionally widespread in India, can account for much or all of the excess stunting in India.

Suggested Citation

  • Spears, Dean, 2013. "How much international variation in child height can sanitation explain ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6351, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6351
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Michael Geruso, 2012. "Black-White Disparities in Life Expectancy: How Much Can the Standard SES Variables Explain?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(2), pages 553-574, May.
    2. Dean Spears & Sneha Lamba, 2016. "Effects of Early-Life Exposure to Sanitation on Childhood Cognitive Skills: Evidence from India’s Total Sanitation Campaign," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 51(2), pages 298-327.
    3. Fortin, Nicole & Lemieux, Thomas & Firpo, Sergio, 2011. "Decomposition Methods in Economics," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 1, pages 1-102, Elsevier.
    4. Hammer, Jeffrey & Spears, Dean, 2013. "Village sanitation and children's human capital : evidence from a randomized experiment by the Maharashtra government," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6580, The World Bank.
    5. Spears, Dean, 2012. "Height and cognitive achievement among Indian children," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 210-219.
    6. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
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    12. Tarozzi, Alessandro, 2008. "Growth reference charts and the nutritional status of Indian children," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 455-468, December.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Population Policies; Early Child and Children's Health; Disease Control&Prevention; Health Monitoring&Evaluation; Youth and Governance;

    JEL classification:

    • R29 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Other
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I39 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Other
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling

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