Research / BFI Working PaperJan 01, 2019

Religion and Sanitation Practices

Anjali Adukia, Marcella Alsan, Kim Babiarz, Jeremy D. Goldhaber-Fiebert, Lea Prince

Infant mortality among Hindus is higher than among Muslims in India, and religious differences in sanitation practices have been cited as a contributing factor. To explore whether religion itself is associated with differences in sanitation practices, we com-pare sanitation practices of Hindus and Muslims living in the same locations using three nationally-representative data sets from India. Across all three data sets, the un-conditional religion-specific gap in latrine ownership and latrine use declines by approximately two-thirds when conditioning on location characteristics or including location fixed effects. Further, we do not find evidence of religion-specific differences in other sanitation practices, such as handwashing or observed fecal material near homes. We conclude that household sanitation practices vary substantially across areas of India, but that religion itself has less direct influence when considering differences between Hindus and Muslims within the same location.

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