Measurement of Open Defecation in Rural India: A Survey Experiment

Nikhil Srivastav, University of Texas at Austin
Sangita Vyas , University of Texas at Austin
Divya Mary, Institute for Financial Management and Research
Diane Coffey, Population Research Center
Dean Spears, Delhi School of Economics
Neeta Goel, 3ie
Shaon Lahiri, The George Washington University
Anmol Narain, 3ie
Sujatha Srinivasan, Institute for Financial Management and Research
Ajaykumar Tannirkulam, Institute for Financial Management and Research
Radu Ban, World Bank Group

Rural India is home to more than half of the world’s open defecation. Using a household-level question that asks about the behavior of everyone in the household in one question, India’s DHS estimates that 54 percent of households in rural India defecated in the open. Yet, recent evidence suggests that it is common for individuals living in households with latrines to nevertheless defecate in the open, indicating that measures based on household-level questions underestimate true open defecation in rural India. We report on a novel experiment, which tested a balanced question about latrine use or open defecation for every member of a household against a household-level question. We randomly assigned the latrine use question administered in a survey of mostly latrine-owning households in the rural parts of four states of India. In this sample, the individual-level question found approximately 21 percentage points more open defecation than the household-level question.

See paper

 Presented in Session 80. Flash Session: Innovation in Demographic Methods