Can women empowerment help to reduce open defecation in India: evidence from NFHS 4

In this paper, it is argued that women, because of being disproportionately affected by lack of sanitation, can influence the household to build a toilet at home and there fore reduce the incidence of open defecation . Thus, the objective of this paper is to analyze the role that women empowerment can play in reducing open defecation at the household level. Using the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) for 2015-2016 for a cross section of 17 major states of India, the paper suggests that greater women autonomy in the form of higher decision making power and greater freedom of movement leads to increased chances of toilets in the house. Secondly, women can be influential neither by virtue of being the head of the household nor by working but only if such positions of power are complemented with education and media exposure . A district level analysis using Quantile regression suggests that the role of women autonomy is more pronounced in the well performing districts compared to districts with more open defecation. The importance of media exposure and education got reinforced.