Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109(27): 10815-10820, 2012 (with Mushfiq Mobarak, Puneet Dwivedi, Robert Bailis, and Lynn Hildemann)
Biomass combustion with traditional cookstoves causes substantial environmental and health harm. Nontraditional cookstove technologies can be efficacious in reducing this adverse impact, but they are adopted and used at puzzlingly low rates. This study analyzes the determinants of low demand for nontraditional cookstoves in rural Bangladesh by using both stated preference (from a nationally representative survey of rural women) and revealed preference (assessed by conducting a cluster-randomized trial of cookstove prices) approaches. We find consistent evidence across both analyses suggesting that the women in rural Bangladesh do not perceive indoor air pollution as a significant health hazard, prioritize other basic developmental needs over nontraditional cookstoves, and overwhelmingly rely on a free traditional cookstove technology and are therefore not willing to pay much for a new nontraditional cookstove. Efforts to improve health and abate environmental harm by promoting nontraditional cookstoves may be more successful by designing and disseminating nontraditional cookstoves with features valued more highly by users, such as reduction of operating costs, even when those features are not directly related to the cookstoves’ health and environmental impacts.