The 2001 and 2011 Census of India returns are used to document the proportion of households with access to a latrine on their premises, in the different regions, states and districts of India. While some states have already achieved coverage of 90% or more, in others the proportion served is as low as 22%. There are also wide disparities between urban and rural households. Overall, more than 81.4% of urban households, but only 30.7% of rural households have a latrine. The difference varies widely across the country. Coverage has increased by 10.5% over the decade from 2001. This progress also varied widely between states and between districts within each state; 6.3% of districts made negative progress during that period. The variation between states and districts means that some have already achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of their population that lacks sanitation, while others, if they continue at the present rate, will not do so for many decades. Study of the causes of these differences offers the hope of finding ways to accelerate progress in the laggard states and districts. For example, we find a close association between district sanitation coverage and female literacy, suggesting an important role for education.

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