Alex Armand, Britta Augsburg, Antonella Bancalari, 09 August 2021

Community toilets in slums are often degraded, dirty, and poorly maintained, but upgrading facilities is difficult because of low willingness to pay among potential users and free riding. This column looks at community toilets in Uttar Pradesh, India, and asks whether externally incentivising maintenance can sustainably improve the quality of public infrastructure. Providing cash incentives to the caretaker and a one-time facility upgrade improved the quality of facilities and reduced free riding, but pushed more residents to practise open defecation, with poor public health outcomes. Fully subsidising basic services is important but measures are needed to prevent overcrowding and degradation.

Asha Abdel-Rahim, Dany Jaimovich, Aleksi Ylönen, 13 December 2015

One of the most important effects of armed conflicts is the forced displacement of large numbers of civilians. When conflicts end, many who have left their homes return, facing the challenge of rebuilding their lives in post-conflict areas. This column analyses the outcomes of returning households during a short-lived interwar period in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Returning households, particularly those that are female-headed, face worse economic conditions. But returnees fare better on various health indicators, likely related to changes in sanitary habits picked up during displacement.

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