Intra-Household Externalities And Low Demand For A New Technology Experimental Evidence On Improved Cookstoves
This paper studies the behavioral underpinnings of low demand for a technology with substantial implications for population health and the environment: improved cookstoves. We conduct a multi-pronged field experiment in rural Bangladesh to investigate two commonly-cited reasons for low demand: (1) intra-household externalities and (2) tradition-based aversion. On the former, we find that women – who bear disproportionate cooking costs – have stronger preference for improved stoves, especially health-saving stoves, but lack the authority to make purchases. On the latter, we find that revealing information about technology choices by respected community members sharing common traditions influences adoption decisions more for technologies lacking self-evident benefits and more before common experience accumulates. Overall, our findings suggest that (1) if women cannot make independent choices, public policy may not be able to exploit gender differences in preferences to promote technology adoption absent broader social change; and (2) marketing and persuasion techniques may only increase adoption temporarily and may be less effective for technologies that households can evaluate for themselves.