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Up in Smoke: The Influence of Household Behavior on the Long-Run Impact of Improved Cooking Stoves

72 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2012 Last revised: 1 May 2012

Rema Hanna

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Esther Duflo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD)

Michael Greenstone

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 16, 2012

Abstract

It is conventional wisdom that it is possible to reduce exposure to indoor air pollution, improve health outcomes, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions in rural areas of developing countries through the adoption of improved cooking stoves. This is largely supported by observational field studies and engineering or laboratory experiments. However, we provide new evidence, from a randomized control trial conducted in rural Orissa, India (one of the poorest places in India) on the benefits of a commonly used improved stove that laboratory tests showed to reduce indoor air pollution and require less fuel. We track households for up to four years after they received the stove. While we find a meaningful reduction in smoke inhalation in the first year, there is no effect over longer time horizons. We find no evidence of improvements in lung functioning or health and there is no change in fuel consumption (and presumably greenhouse gas emissions). The difference between the laboratory and field findings appears to result from households’ revealed low valuation of the stoves. Households failed to use the stoves regularly or appropriately, did not make the necessary investments to maintain them properly, and usage rates ultimately declined further over time. More broadly, this study underscores the need to test environmental and health technologies in real-world settings where behavior may temper impacts, and to test them over a long enough horizon to understand how this behavioral effect evolves over time.

Keywords: indoor air pollution, human health, climate change, technology adoption

JEL Classification: O10, O13, O12, Q0, Q23, Q3, Q51, Q53, Q56, I15, I18

Suggested Citation

Hanna, Rema and Duflo, Esther and Greenstone, Michael, Up in Smoke: The Influence of Household Behavior on the Long-Run Impact of Improved Cooking Stoves (April 16, 2012). MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 12-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2039004 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2039004

Rema Hanna

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Esther Duflo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
Room E52-544
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
617-258-7013 (Phone)
617-253-6915 (Fax)

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD) ( email )

Duke University
Durham, NC 90097
United States

Michael Greenstone (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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