Subjective Well-Being Effects of Coping Cost: Evidence from Household Water Supply in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
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Coping with unreliable water supply—in terms of quantity and quality—can impose significant costs on households as they are required to spend more resources on coping strategies such as purchasing, storing, treating, pumping, and collecting. Does increased coping cost affect people’s subjective well-being? We answer this question using unique panel data on urban households in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal from 2001 and 2014. Using previously computed coping cost estimates, we examine the association between total coping cost and both evaluative and hedonic measures of subjective well-being. To understand the underlying mechanisms, we examine the detailed composition of household coping cost and also the correlation between coping cost and time use. We take necessary steps to address potential endogeneity in coping cost and subjective well-being. Our main finding is that increased coping cost is positively correlated with evaluative well-being but not with hedonic well-being. This result is robust to alternate specifications. Exploration of mechanisms suggests that this may be owing to spending on storage tanks and treatment systems, which are likely to be perceived as long-term ‘investments’ that make people more resilient to water insecurity, and not ‘costs’. Further, increased coping cost significantly reduces time spent on collecting water, which may also explain the positive correlation between coping cost and evaluative well-being.
KeywordsUrban water supply Coping cost Subjective well-being Nepal
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by the Institute of Water Policy, National University of Singapore. We are immensely thankful to Dale Whittington, Wu Xun, Jane Zhao, and Aditi Raina for their valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. We also thank Bal Kumar K. C. and Bhim Suwal for their support in the data collection process. We wish to acknowledge the excellent research assistance provided by Ms. Luu Diu Khue and Mr. Venu Gopal Mothkoor. The findings, interpretations, conclusions, and any errors are entirely those of the authors.
NC designed relevant modules of the survey, monitored data collection, performed the data analysis, and wrote the full paper. YJC designed relevant modules of the survey, monitored data collection, and provided inputs on data analysis and paper framing. YG provided the coping cost estimates, provided inputs in designing the survey, and monitored data collection.
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