Water, Health and Wealth

25 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2017

See all articles by Nava Ashraf

Nava Ashraf

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Edward L. Glaeser

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Brookings Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Abraham Holland

Harvard University

Bryce Steinberg

Brown University

Date Written: September 2017

Abstract

Providing clean water requires maintenance, as well as the initial connections that are typically measured. Frequently, the water supply fails in the developing world, especially when users don’t pay the marginal cost of water. This paper uses the timing of frequent, unexpected water service outages in Lusaka, Zambia to identify the short-term impacts of piped water access on contagious disease, economic activity and time use. We use microdata from the primary water utility in the city on the timing and location of supply complaints to identify outages, matched to extensive administrative data across the city. Conditional on fixed effects for time and water service district within Lusaka, we find that increases in outages are associated with increased incidence of diarrheal disease, upper respiratory infections, typhoid fever and measles. We match outages to geolocated microdata on financial transactions from the largest mobile money provider in Zambia, and find that outages cause a reduction in financial transactions. Outages also increase the time that young girls spend at their chores, possibly at the expense of time they spend doing schoolwork. Imperfect infrastructure appears to burden the poor in ways that go far beyond obvious health consequences.

Suggested Citation

Ashraf, Nava and Glaeser, Edward L. and Holland, Abraham and Steinberg, Bryce, Water, Health and Wealth (September 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23807, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3038617

Nava Ashraf (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

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Edward L. Glaeser

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Abraham Holland

Harvard University

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Bryce Steinberg

Brown University ( email )

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