The long and short of open defecation

Dean Spears is a statistical economist who was recently awarded a Ph.D. from Princeton University. He has studied the impact of the Total Sanitation Campaign on child health in India, and has also concluded that the Nirmal Gram Puraskar is an effective way to motivate communities towards being free of open defecation. You can view this research paper here.

Using a toiletIn another paper, Spears argues that an important reason for children not growing in height to their full potential in India is bad sanitation. He has spent significant time in India over the last few years conducting this research. You can view this research paper, “How much international variation in child height can sanitation explain?” here. Earlier this year, he wrote about this in The Hindu, explaining how there is now statistical data that shows that the height of Indian children is correlated to theirs and their neighbourhood’s access to toilets. The ramifications of this research are significant in the sanitation context, and certainly do away with the oft-quoted reason for Indians and Asians being generally shorter compared to the west, that’s it’s genetics. Get a detailed analysis of Dean’s research findings on India Water Portal here.

Dean also visited Arghyam recently to share his research and learn about this communication for sanitation project. If you are interested in connecting with him, do write to us at


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