A Latrine of Their Own

Assistant Professor Anjali Adukia, who joined the Chicago Harris faculty this fall, is expanding the scope of the school’s work on child development and education policy. Her recent paper, “Sanitation and Education,” explores India’s nation- wide initiative to improve school sanitation facilities. Although many leaders have resisted calls to change centuries-old practices, she found that the presence of school sanitation facilities increases enrollment, achievement and more.

The impact is particularly pronounced for young children and adolescent girls. “For younger children it doesn’t seem to matter much if the government built unisex or sex-specific latrines, which suggests that the primary mechanism through which younger children experience large impacts is through improved child health,” she explains. “In other words, children may be healthier when school sanitation facilities are available, which could encourage them to attend more often.”

For older children, latrine type seems to matter significantly. “Pubescent-aged girls only benefit if you build separate, female-only latrines,” Adukia says. “This suggests that their educational decisions are influenced by the privacy and safety benefits offered by the presence of sanitation facilities.”

The paper was based on research Adukia developed at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. On September 3 her dissertation won the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management’s 2014 Best Dissertation Award. (Honorable mention went to Harris alum Sara Heller, PhD’13, who explored policies aimed at improving the human capital of disadvantaged youth.)

Adukia recently presented her research to a meeting of India’s Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, and she is advising UNICEF and other partners to help support the Indian government’s ambitious pledge to bring separate toilets for boys and girls to every school in the country.

“Harris is delighted to welcome Anjali Adukia to its faculty,” says Professor Ariel Kalil, director of the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy and chair of the search committee that hired her. “She adds depth and an important new international focus in child development and education to the ongoing Harris faculty work on family background and child development, K-12 education and children’s attainments, and poverty and inequality.” 

Josh Fox


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