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Shifting Social Norms to Reduce Open Defecation in Rural India (English)

Toilet ownership in India has grown in recent years, but open defecation can persist even when rural households own latrines. There are at least two pathways through which social norms inhibit the use of toilets in rural India: (i) beliefs/expectations that others do not use toilets or latrines or find open defecation unacceptable; and (ii) beliefs about ritual notions of purity that dissociate latrines from cleanliness. A survey in Uttar Pradesh, India, finds a positive correlation between latrine use and social norms at baseline. To confront these, an information campaign was piloted to test the effectiveness of rebranding latrine use and promoting positive social norms. The intervention, which made information about growing latrine use among latrine owners more salient, reduced open defecation practices across all treatment households, with average latrine use score in treatment villages increasing by up to 11 percent, relative to baseline. Large improvements were also observed in pro-latrine beliefs. This suggests that low-cost information campaigns can effectively improve pro-latrine beliefs and practices, as well as shift perceptions of why many people still find open defecation acceptable. Measuring social norms as described can help diagnose barriers to reducing open defecation, contribute to the quality of large-scale surveys, and make development interventions more sustainable.

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Citation

Gauri,Varun Rahman,Tasmia Sen,Iman Kalyan

Shifting Social Norms to Reduce Open Defecation in Rural India (English). Policy Research working paper,no. WPS 8684 Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/987801545256336106/Shifting-Social-Norms-to-Reduce-Open-Defecation-in-Rural-India