Replication of ‘Housing, Health, and Happiness’

Replication Researcher: Maria Pia Basurto Preciado (with Jose Luis Flor Toro, Ramiro Burga, and César Huaroto). Original Paper Title: Housing, Health, and Happiness
Original Researchers: Matias D. Cattaneo, Sebastian Galiani, Paul J. Gertler, Sebastian Martinez and Rocio Titiunik
Original Publication: American Economic Journal: Economic Policy
Replication Plan: Basurto's Replication Plan
Current Status: Completed Replication Study

The Original Study

Poor housing conditions are argued to undermine physical and mental health and have harmful effects on childhood development. This study examines the impact of the Mexican government’s intervention “Piso Firme”, which aims to improve housing conditions in low-income neighbourhoods by providing up to 50 square metres of concrete cement flooring to households with dirt floors. By using a matching strategy, the study specifically attempted to identify the programme’s intent-to-treat impact on child health, cognitive development and adult mental health by comparing households from Torreon, a city that forms part of the Cohauila state where the programme was initially implemented, with households from the nearby (thus, similar) and non-treated Durango state’s cities. 

The authors concluded that Piso Firme led to significant improvements in child health (the intervention was associated with a reduction in children’s parasitic infections, diarrhea and anaemia), cognitive development (children in treated cities performance better in standardized tests of vocabulary and of language and communication skills) and adult mental health and happiness (mothers in treated cities scored lower on depression and perceived stress scales and were more satisfied in terms of quality of life). Furthermore, they suggested that replacing dirt floors with cement floors appears to be highly cost effective in comparison with other interventions (e.g.: Mexicos’s Oportunidades) and that improving housing conditions can complement the effectiveness of other interventions (e.g.: distributing de-worming medicine).

The Replication

According to UN-Habitat 2010, roughly one of every three urban dwellers in developing regions suffered from at least one feature of inadequate housing and could be thus classified as living in a ‘slum’. In Latin America and the Caribbean, roughly 24 per cent of its urban population lived in slums during 2010. Cattaneo et al.(2009) evaluated the effectiveness of the Mexican government’s Piso Firme programme. This replication study of their influential slum-upgrading research aims to demonstrate the robustness of the research by including additional model specifications, alternative methodologies to deal with missing values and, other robustness checks.

Photo © Andreasnilsson1976

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