Poverty & Inequality

Switching to sanitation in South Asia: A study of health technology adoption (a seed study)

  • Blog Post Date 31 October, 2014
  • IGC Research on India
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Diane Coffey

University of Texas at Austin


Open defecation in rural India presents a puzzle: India has far higher open defecation rates than other developing regions where people are poorer, literacy rates are lower, and water is more scarce. Because open defecation has terrible consequences for health, it is important to understand why few villagers use latrines. This project draws on new data to present social and cultural explanations for India’s uniquely high rates of open defecation. It finds that beliefs, values, and norms about purity and pollution contribute to the ubiquity and social acceptability of open defecation.

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