Weekly Economics Webinar by Rashmi Barua
October 28, 2020 @ 1:20 pm - 2:30 pm
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Title: Still Waters Run Deep: Groundwater Arsenic Contamination and Education Outcomes in India [link to paper]
Speaker: Rashmi Barua, Assistant Professor, Center for International Trade and Development, JNU
Abstract: We study the effect of exposure to arsenic in groundwater, the main source of arsenic contamination, on a range of education outcomes among children in India. Using a large nationally representative household survey and exploiting variation in soil textures across districts as an instrument for arsenic, we find that arsenic exposure beyond the safe threshold level is negatively associated with school attendance. We complement these results with a newly collected survey of students in public schools located in one of the most arsenic affected regions of India. Exploiting variation in the geographical coverage and timing of construction of government water supply schemes allows us to identify the effect of arsenic on student outcomes. We find that children with prolonged exposure to contaminated water sources experience higher rates of absenteeism, grade retention, and lower test scores. We find that detrimental effects are larger among girls, likely due to an already underlying health disadvantage in childhood.