Place and Child Health: The Interaction of Population Density and Sanitation in Developing Countries

Diane Coffey, Princeton University
Payal Hathi, Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (r.i.c.e.)
Sabrina Haque, World Bank Group
Lovey Pant, Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (r.i.c.e.)
Dean Spears, Delhi School of Economics

A long literature in demography debates the importance of place for health. In this paper we assess whether the importance of dense settlement for child mortality and child height is moderated by exposure to local sanitation behavior. We present two complementary analyses. First, we concentrate on external validity by studying infant mortality and child height in an international child-level dataset of 172 Demographic and Health Surveys, matched to census population density data for 1,800 sub-national regions. Second, we concentrate on internal validity by studying child height in Bangladesh, using a new dataset constructed with GIS techniques that allows us to control for fixed effects at a high level of geographic resolution. We find a statistically robust and quantitatively comparable interaction between sanitation and population density with both approaches: open defecation externalities are more important for child health where people live more closely together.

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Presented in Session 67: Spatial Analysis of Population and Environment