Social setting, gender, and preferences for improved sanitation: Evidence from experimental games in rural India

Emily L. Pakhtigian, Subhrendu K. Pattanayak

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Unimproved sanitation and hygiene practices present a persistent threat to public health and well-being. Increasing the adoption of safe hygiene and sanitation requires both technological investments as well as behavioral change, suggesting that social contexts may be important in determining the success of efforts towards improved sanitation and hygiene. We examine how the social setting, particularly the gender balance of decision-making spaces, influences stated preferences for improving sanitation using a lab-in-the-field experiment. We designed a sanitation-themed public goods game in which participants made contributions that corresponded to varying levels of sanitation and hygiene investments. We implemented these games with over 1500 participants in 69 villages in rural Bihar and Odisha, India, randomly varying group gender composition (women only, men only, and mixed gender). Our study finds that individuals playing in single gender groups make larger contributions; these increases are driven by women playing in groups with only women. In mixed gender groups, contributions increase with the share of male participants and over rounds played. We also find that preferences elicited via experimental games are correlated with revealed preferences for hygiene and sanitation – game behavior and sanitation practices are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106556
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - May 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics

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