Working Paper

Still Waters Run Deep: Groundwater Arsenic Contamination and Education Outcomes in India

Published: 2022

Non-technical summary

The water crisis is a pressing issue in developing countries because climate change reduces the rate of rainwater seeping underground, increasing the concentration of toxins in groundwater. India and Bangladesh have the largest population in the world exposed to arsenic in groundwater. Approximately 70 million people in India are exposed to groundwater arsenic that is above permissible levels recommended by the WHO. Children comprise nearly half of the affected population and consuming arsenic contaminated water is likely a contributor to India’s high child mortality rate. Moreover, very little is known about the effects of arsenic consumption on children’s education outcomes.

We find that prolonged exposure to arsenic-contaminated water consumption in India significantly increases school absenteeism, grade retention, and decreases test scores of primary and secondary students. Moreover, our newly collected dataset shows that detrimental effects are larger among girls, exacerbating an already underlying health gender disadvantage in childhood.

Authors

Aggarwal K.Barua R.Vidal-Fernández M.

Aggarwal, K., Barua, R. & Vidal-Fernandez, M. (2022). ‘Still Waters Run Deep: Groundwater Arsenic Contamination and Education Outcomes in India’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2022-08. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.