Growing taller among toilets: Evidence from changes in sanitation and child height in Cambodia

September 5, 2013 by WASHplus

Growing taller among toilets: Evidence from changes in sanitation and child height in Cambodia, 2005-2010. 2013.

Phyrum Kov, et al. Rice Institute.

Child height is an important indicator of human capital and human development, in large part because early life health and net nutrition shape both height and adult economic productivity and health. Recent medical evidence suggests that exposure to poor sanitation and specifi cally to widespread open defecation can pose a critical threat to child growth. Cambodia saw a signifi cant decline in open defecation and increase in child height between its 2005 and 2010 Demographic and Health Surveys.

This paper identifi es an eff ect of open defecation on child height from within-province changes in the local area open defecation to which children are exposed. In particular, it is local open defecation that matters most for child height, underscoring the negative externalities that make reducing open defecation a policy priority where it is common.

Our estimate is quantitatively robust, and corroborated by model averaging techniques. Decomposition analysis, in the spirit of Blinder-Oaxaca, further suggests that reductioncin children’s exposure to open defecation can statistically account for much or all of the increase in average child height between 2005 and 2010.

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