“No Toilet, No Bride”

by on December 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm in Economics | Permalink

From Yaniv Stopnitzky, who is on the job market from Yale:

Abstract: Female bargaining power in rural Haryana, as in much of northern India, is constrained by widespread discrimination against women.  In recent years, however, women successfully demand private sanitation facilities from potential husbands as a precondition for marriage.  I study this shift in bargaining power by modeling latrine adoption as an investment that males can make to improve their desirability on the marriage market, and I show that increases in the proportion of females with strong sanitation preferences drive males’ investment in toilets.  Moreover, I show women’s ability to secure latrines increases when they are relatively scarce in a marriage market.  I test these predictions empirically by studying a sanitation program in Haryana, India, known colloquially as “No Toilet, No Bride”.  Using a triple difference empirical strategy based on households with and without marriageable boys, in Haryana and comparison states, before and after program exposure, I provide evidence that male investment in sanitation has increased by 15% as a result of the program, and this effect is explained almost entirely by marriage markets where women are scarce.  These results suggest the relative scarcity of women in Haryana has, conditional on women surviving to marriageable age, improved the ability of the remaining women to secure valuable goods.

1 Ryan December 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Markets in everything?

2 AC December 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Indeed! If only all women’s material preferences were so practical and prosocial!

3 Dr. Goose December 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm

According to ABC News, the reason for the relative scarcity of women in such places as rural Haryana is that expectant mothers who are carrying girls are pressured into aborting them. This all relates to the practice of dowries, which the bride’s family must pay to that of the groom. Dowries have evidently become a terrible financial burden to middle-class Indians, who then turn to clinics that offer both ultrasound scans and abortions, to head off this looming liability. However, what might be economically beneficial to one family is both economically and morally detrimental to the society as a whole. Indeed, a toilet is small compensation.


4 Jim December 15, 2011 at 5:31 pm

“However, what might be economically beneficial to one family is both economically and morally detrimental to the society as a whole. ”

I don’t see how it is economically detrimental to society as a whole unless ever upward and onward population growth is some kind of social good.

On the other hand I do see how this could be very good for the planet as a whole.

As for moral detriment, that would have to be based on pedestalizing the individual. That is a value jugdment, not a conclusion drawn from fact.

5 abc December 15, 2011 at 1:06 pm

what are the implications for economic policy?

is the sophistication of the investigative methods in reasonable proportion compared to the value of the results one can expect from such an investigation?

6 dearieme December 15, 2011 at 1:16 pm

That a shortage of women leads to an increase in their price is hardly surprising. Does he have any suggestions as to why that should take the form of latrines? (I could guess, but I wonder whether he has any evidence.)

7 wintercow20 December 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm

The findings of this paper are extremely interesting when paired with one of the others from his site:

” Preliminary results suggest Total Sanitation Campaign subsidies have no measurable effect on latrine adoption despite comprising an average of roughly 70% of total program expenditures.”

8 Sebastian December 15, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Ron Paul: Not an Isolationist but a Non-Interventionist


9 tkehler December 15, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Speaking of toilets and female bargaining power… My wife says: “No toilet seat in the ‘down’ position, no more wife.”

(I’m kidding: she expresses it as a preference not a demand, but it sounds better that way.)

10 Anon December 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm


11 Jim December 15, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Start peeing outside and see how your bargaining position suddenly improves.

12 dearieme December 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm

In summer one does pee outside surely: straight onto the compost heap.

13 R. Pointer December 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I’d say his job prospects are in the sh!tter.

14 Berk Ozler December 15, 2011 at 7:10 pm
15 question the question December 15, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Sounds like a Bob Marley song title.

16 Crenellations December 15, 2011 at 8:10 pm

huh. that’s some shit.

17 John December 16, 2011 at 1:39 am

This isn’t unique to India. I’ve heard that my grandfather had to do this to get my grandmother to marry him, around 70 years ago in the US.

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19 Brian Moore December 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I’m pretty sure you could model a significant percentage of all developments/technologies/advancements/productivity using this theory — and a few wars, if we are to believe in Helen of Troy.

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