Job Market Paper

Abstract: Safe drinking water is essential for creating a healthy learning environment at schools. Yet, 30% of schools worldwide do not have access to this resource. I study how providing access to safe drinking water at school affects the outcomes of students and communities by exploring the impacts of a large-scale program that has installed water treatment facilities on the premises of almost 800 schools in rural Colombia. I exploit variation in the timing of facility deliveries to schools to identify causal effects of improved access to safe drinking water at schools on enrollment, student achievement, and the health outcomes of the surrounding communities. I find that on average, the installation of a water treatment facility increases enrollment in treated schools at the upper secondary level but decreases it at the primary level. I do not find effects on test scores nor on the incidence of diarrheal diseases. The negative effects on primary level enrollment are concentrated among schools with lower institutional capacity, where the operation of the water treatment facility may compromise the school's capability to fulfill its existing responsibilities.