We argue that prominent macro-quantitative studies in economics, medicine and public health, and political science fail to test for the effect of improved sanitation, on countries' average life expectancy scores. Our study adds sanitation to a basic model focusing on income and democracy as central explanatory factors. We use a cross-sectional design and ordinary least squares (OLS) regression with the most recent data, i.e., 2012 or the latest available numbers, and work with the Economist Intelligence Unit 2012 democracy data. All other data are derived from the CIA World Factbook. Including sanitation in a cross-sectional model with recent country-level data and controlling for income and democracy increases the explained variance by as much as 11% points. This work identifies sanitation as a crucial variable omitted from existing work on life expectancy. Future studies should aim at the effects of additional public goods apart from sanitation and work with panel data.

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