Caste and Open Defecation in Rural India

Marco Antonio Haro , Pennsylvania State University
Nancy Luke, Pennsylvania State University

Despite being a middle-income country, India has an exceedingly high level of open defecation, particularly in rural areas, compared to countries much less developed. Explanations such as poverty, illiteracy, and lack of access to clean water and toilet facilities have failed to explain why the high rate of open defecation persists. We explore the role of caste and inter-caste conflicts in the village as a reason for open defecation, as caste discrimination could affect latrine construction and usage. We use census data from 400 rural villages in Tamil Nadu, India, containing information on toilet facilities for each household matched with survey data containing information on inter-caste disputes. Preliminary results reveal a positive relationship between various types of inter-caste disputes and open defecation among household members.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality