Female Political Leadership and the Prevalence of Water Borne Diseases: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in India
35 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2010
Date Written: January 8, 2010
This paper examines the relationship between prevalence of water borne diseases and gender of the head of the village councils by exploiting a natural experiment in local governance in India. A constitutional amendment in early 1990s ensured that only women could contest the elections and be the head in at least one-third of the village councils selected through an exogenous process.
Utilizing a unique sample survey, we show that having a woman as the council head seems to have no effect on the prevalence of water borne diseases. But if we look into the sub-categories of the female council heads, we find that the female council heads from the upper castes have indeed been able to reduce the prevalence of water borne diseases significantly, while villages which have women as the council heads from the disadvantaged sections of the society i.e. the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and the Backward Classes, show no such effect. We also show that the households in the villages headed by females from the upper castes are more likely to obtain drinking water from a safer source like tap compared to an unsafe source like surface water and uncovered well.
Keywords: Diarrhea, Women's Reservtion, India, 73rd Constitutional Amendment
JEL Classification: H75, I18, I38, 018, R11, R28, R50
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