Aaron Smith | Dec. 17, 2013 | Notre Dame Department of Economics
Notre Dame’s Department of Economics is at the forefront of several initiatives that exemplify the University’s commitment to innovative research that can make a difference in the developing world.
Imagine bargaining every week with a garbage truck operator to pick up your trash. That’s how assistant professor Terence Johnson describes the reality in Burkina Faso and Ghana, where citizens need pits holding human waste in their homes to be regularly emptied.
“Unfortunately, the markets for this service don’t work very well—households are at the mercy of the firms, similar to going to the emergency room for care rather than arranging procedures in advance,” says Johnson, who is teaming with Molly Lipscomb of the University of Virginia to look at ways the market could function more efficiently.
“The health consequences are potentially huge,” Johnson says. “In Burkina Faso, poor households will pay people to empty the pits manually—literally jumping into them and shoveling them out—rather than hiring a truck to do it mechanically. In Ghana, there can be delays while households wait to find a reasonable price, leading to poor sanitation conditions.