Essays on the Economics of Household Water Access in Developing Countries

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Essays on the Economics of Household Water Access in Developing Countries

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Title: Essays on the Economics of Household Water Access in Developing Countries
Author: Meeks, Robyn
Citation: Meeks, Robyn. 2012. Essays on the Economics of Household Water Access in Developing Countries. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation focuses on the economics of household water access in developing countries. The first paper explores whether improvements in water technology enable changes in household time allocation and, thereby, productivity gains. To do so, it exploits differences in timing of shared water tap construction across Kyrgyz villages. Households in villages that received the drinking water infrastructure are more likely to have water close to their homes. This reduced the time intensity of home production activities impacted by water. Village-level incidence of acute intestinal infections fell amongst children. Although adults show no signs of health improvements, they do benefit from reductions in the time spent caring for sick children. Individuals reallocate time savings to additional leisure and market labor, primarily work on the household farm, and the returns to the additional farm labor approximately equal the hourly farm wage. Time intensive water collection can be a source of gender inequality in households lacking water infrastructure. The second paper uses a natural experiment to investigate culture as a source of gender inequality and its role in determining gender roles for activities, such as water collection. Using exogenous variation in district-level cultural composition due to events in Kyrgyzstan during Soviet rule, I estimate the persistence of differences in gender equality between traditional sedentary farming cultures and nomadic herding cultures. Results indicate that Soviet institutions increased educational attainment in both cultures. Other cultural differences - such as gender of household water collector and perceptions of domestic violence - persist. One impediment to the construction of water infrastructure is insecure land tenure or property rights. The third paper explores whether alleviating this impediment through a program providing land titles in rural Peru is associated with improvements in water access. Utilizing the phased in timing, I exploit the differences in project implementation timing between households that held property titles prior to the project and those that did not. Results indicate that land titling is associated with increases in water access. Supporting evidence suggests that either the government or a utility might be responsible for the improvements.
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