Subjective Risk Assessment and Reactions to Health-Related Information: Evidence from Bangladesh
Alessandro Tarozzi, Duke University
Soumya Balasubramanya, Duke University
Lori Bennear, Duke University
Alex Pfaff, Duke University
Arsenic-contaminated drinking water is a serious public health problem in several countries, including Bangladesh. We use data purposely collected in Araihazar district, Bangladesh, to analyze the relationship between the provision of information about arsenic levels of tubewell water, elicited perceptions about health risks and choice of source of drinking water. We document widespread awareness about the health risk of arsenic and its cumulative negative effects. Perceptions of health risk are strongly related to increases in the arsenic level and help explain the decision to switch to alternative sources. In addition, we describe the results of a field experiment. A random subsample of households was informed of the arsenic content of their water using a message that only emphasized whether water was "safe", while with other households the message stressed the importance of choosing the source with the lowest arsenic level. Unexpectedly, the experimental communication mode decreased the response to the new information.