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Effects of early-life exposure to sanitation on childhood cognitive skills : evidence from India's total sanitation campaign

  • Spears, Dean
  • Lamba, Sneha
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    Early life health and net nutrition shape childhood and adult cognitive skills and human capital. In poor countries -- and especially in South Asia -- widespread open defecation without making use of a toilet or latrine is an important source of childhood disease. This paper studies the effects on childhood cognitive achievement of early life exposure to India's Total Sanitation Campaign, a large government program that encouraged local governments to build and promote use of inexpensive pit latrines. In the early years of the program studied here, the TSC caused six-year-olds exposed to it in their first year of life to be more likely to recognize letters and simple numbers. The results suggest both that open defecation is an important threat to the human capital of the Indian labor force, and that a program feasible to low capacity governments in developing countries could improve average cognitive skills.

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    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6659.

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    Date of creation: 01 Oct 2013
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6659
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    1. Hanushek, Eric A. & Wößmann, Ludger, 2008. "The role of cognitive skills in economic development," Munich Reprints in Economics 20454, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    2. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Susanne Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the technology of cognitive and noncognitive skill formation," CeMMAP working papers CWP09/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    3. Hoyt Bleakley, 2007. "Disease and Development: Evidence from Hookworm Eradication in the American South," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 73-117, 02.
    4. Tania Barham, 2012. "Enhancing Cognitive Functioning: Medium-Term Effects of a Health and Family Planning Program in Matlab," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 245-73, January.
    5. Watson, Tara, 2006. "Public health investments and the infant mortality gap: Evidence from federal sanitation interventions on U.S. Indian reservations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1537-1560, September.
    6. Manisha Shah & Bryce Millett Steinberg, 2013. "Drought of Opportunities: Contemporaneous and Long Term Impacts of Rainfall Shocks on Human Capital," NBER Working Papers 19140, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Doyle, Orla & Harmon, Colm P. & Heckman, James J. & Tremblay, Richard E., 2009. "Investing in early human development: Timing and economic efficiency," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 1-6, March.
    8. Strauss, J. & Thomas, D., 1995. "Health, Nutrition and Economic development," Papers 95-23, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
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