Can information alone change behavior? Response to arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh

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2007-11-01

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Abstract

We study how effectively information induces Bangladeshi households to avoid a health risk. The response to information is large and rapid; knowing that the household's well water has an unsafe concentration of arsenic raises the probability that the household changes to another well within one year by 0.37. Households who change wells increase the time spent obtaining water fifteen-fold. We identify a causal effect of information, since incidence of arsenic is uncorrelated with household characteristics. Our door-to-door information campaign provides well-specific arsenic levels without which behavior does not change. Media communicate general information about arsenic less expensively and no less effectively. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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10.1016/j.jdeveco.2006.12.002

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Madajewicz, M, A Pfaff, A van Geen, J Graziano, I Hussein, H Momotaj, R Sylvi, H Ahsan, et al. (2007). Can information alone change behavior? Response to arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh. Journal of Development Economics, 84(2). pp. 731–754. 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2006.12.002 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/6639.

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Pfaff

Alexander Pfaff

Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy

Alex Pfaff is a Professor of Public Policy, Economics and Environment at Duke University. He studies how economic development affects and is affected by natural resources and the environment. His focus is on the impacts of conservation policies (such as protected areas, ecoservices payments, and certifications) and development policies (such as roads and rights). Those impacts are functions of choices by individuals and communities that affect land use, water quantity and quality, human exposures (to arsenic, mercury, mining, and particulates), and both the provision and use of information.

Research accessible at AlexPfaff.com




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