Information as an Environmental Policy Instrument: Examining Household Response to Arsenic in Tube-Well Water in Araihazar, Bangladesh
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This dissertation examines the potential of information-provision in motivating behavior that reduces human exposure to arsenic in drinking-water in Bangladesh. In chapter 2, the longer-term effects of the countrywide arsenic-testing and information-program are examined by tracking tube-well switching behavior of households over a five-year period. Chapter 3 focuses on the effects of arsenic information communication formats on tube-well switching behavior, by employing a randomized field experiment. In chapter 4, an instrumental variables approach is used to understand whether a household's decision to switch sources is affected by its proximate neighbors' decisions to switch sources. To answer these questions, primary data was collected by the researchers through field-work in Bangladesh. The results suggest that arsenic-testing and information-provision programs produce persistent behavioral changes that reduce exposure to arsenic, with their impact increasing over time. Comparing the impacts of risk-communication formats, we find that quantitative formats do not significantly increase source-switching behavior, in comparison to that generated by qualitative formats. Lastly, despite econometric identification issues, our data suggest that households gather information about source-switching by observing the actions of their neighbors. In sum, the results presented in this dissertation suggest that the provision of information to rural households can motivate health-improving behavior that reduces households' exposure to arsenic in Bangladesh. This dissertation contributes to the use of information disclosure as a policy instrument to reduce exposure to environmental contaminants.
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