Events & Media

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara



"Water Quality and Education in a Brawn-based Economy:
The Rural Drinking Water Program in China"

Lixin Colin Xu
Senior Research Economist
World Bank

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

"Colin Xu is one of the word's foremost development economists. His talk will be based on a paper in which he explores the critical role of water-quality improvements in promoting the health and welfare of populations in developing regions of China" — Gary Libecap, Faculty Host

While previous research has demonstrated health benefits of safe drinking water programs, we know relatively little about the long-term benefits such as its effect on education. In this paper we examine the educational benefits on rural youth in China of a major drinking water program started in the 1980’s, one of the largest of such programs in the world, costing more than $8.8 billion U.S. dollars and covering around 300 million people. By employing a longitudinal dataset with more than 9,000 individuals between 16 and 25 years old, we find that this health program has improved their education substantially: increasing the grades of education completed by 0.9 years and the probabilities of graduation from a middle and high school by around 19 and 89 percent, respectively. The qualitative results hold when we control for local educational policies and resources (by including county-year fixed effects), the village dummies, the distance of villages to schools, and by instrumenting the water treatment dummy with its topographic feature, among others. Moreover, the female benefit much more than the male in terms of schooling attainment, consistent with the brawn-based theory of gender division of labor in Pitt et al. (2012). The program can completely account for the gender gap in educational attainment in rural China in the sample period. Our estimates suggest that this program is highly cost-effective.

Lixin Colin Xu is a lead economist in the Development Research Group of The World Bank. He joined the bank In 1996 after receiving his PhD from the University of Chicago. He earned his MA and BA from Peking University. His current research focuses on such applied microeconomic topics as development, empirical industrial organization, corporate governance, political economy, labor and household economics, income distribution, and the Chinese economy in transition. He has published more than thirty articles in a variety fo top economics journals.

NOTE: Community colloquia are generally talks of broad interest geared toward a diverse, sophisticated audience. Their purpose is not only to enhance knowledge and understanding, but also to bring people together and promote interaction that will strengthen the community.


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