Water, Spillovers, and Free Riding: Provision of Local Public Goods in a Spatial Network

82 Pages Posted: 17 May 2018 Last revised: 26 Apr 2022

See all articles by Rossa O'Keeffe-O'Donovan

Rossa O'Keeffe-O'Donovan

University of Oxford; University of Oxford - Global Priorities Institute

Date Written: April 26, 2022


In many low-income countries, local public goods are provided by non-governmental organizations and local communities, rather than by government. In rural Tanzania, more than 500 organizations install different technologies of water pumps which local communities are then responsible for maintaining. One third of pumps are non-functional, despite low access to clean water. I show evidence that communities free ride on their neighbors' pump maintenance investments, but also benefit from spillovers that reduce the cost of maintaining their own pump. When pump maintenance spillovers are large, maintenance decisions are strategic complements, but when spillovers are small, free riding effects dominate and maintenance decisions are strategic substitutes. I develop and estimate a spatial network model of communities' pump maintenance decisions to quantify the importance of free riding and maintenance spillovers on pump functionality and child outcomes, and to estimate the effects of two policies that have been proposed in Tanzania. The model estimates that: (i) water collection fees mitigate free riding -- if adopted universally, pump functionality rates would increase by 11 percentage points; (ii) pump technology standardization across communities reduces maintenance costs -- full coordination by installing organizations would increase pump functionality by 6 percentage points; (iii) increased pump functionality improves child survival and school attendance; (iv) school attendance improves more for girls, who are primarily responsible for water collection.

Keywords: Local Public Goods, Spatial Network, Water, Spillovers, Free Rider Problem, Tanzania

JEL Classification: H41, L14, O13

Suggested Citation

O'Keeffe-O'Donovan, Rossa, Water, Spillovers, and Free Riding: Provision of Local Public Goods in a Spatial Network (April 26, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3172733 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3172733

Rossa O'Keeffe-O'Donovan (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

University of Oxford - Global Priorities Institute

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Oxford, OX20AN
United Kingdom

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