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Essays on the Time Use and Behavioral Patterns of Women’s Access to Household Water in Rural India

By Shiuli Vanaja, Cornell University, 2020

Abstract: In this dissertation, three independent research papers are joined together by the common research theme of ‘Women’s access to household water’ in India. The first two papers are based on the self-collected data from selected villages of Jharkhand, India. In these papers, I am studying the role of behavioral factors, like water quality perceptions and water handling practices in determining source choices, drinking water quality, and risk of diarrhea for women in rural households. The third paper uses the data provided by the Indian Human Development Survey and analyses the effect of access to piped water on women’s time use and absenteeism from school for children in rural India. In the first paper, I use panel data collected for 30 villages in Jharkhand, under a household fixed effect model to study the reasons for low drinking water quality and its implications for health costs. The E. coli test results for water samples collected from the field are used as a proxy for water quality. We find that choosing safe water sources improves drinking water quality, but contamination can still happen at home. Thus, the households that use water filters and wash hands tend to have significantly better water quality and lower risk of diarrhea. In the second paper, I use revealed and stated preference data from Jharkhand to explore the role of perceptions of water quality in drinking water source choices when the physical quality of water is not known. A mixed logit model is used for this analysis. We find that taste and color based quality perceptions are significant determinants of drinking water source choices. Furthermore, households are willing to pay between 4 to 68 and between 2 to 40 U.S. Dollars per month for improvements in the taste and color of their drinking water. In the third paper, I study the impact of households’ access to piped water on time savings and school attendance for children in rural India by using child and household fixed effects along with the non-self-community ratio as an instrumental variable for piped water. The results indicate that there are time savings for families that have access to piped water, which in turn reduces the number of days children miss school annually by 35 percent. We do not find any differences in school absenteeism by the gender of the child in rural India.