Worldwide, 844 million people still lack access to basic drinking water, especially in the rural areas of low and middle income countries. However, considerable progress has been made in recent years due to work on the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals. Nevertheless, countries’ national characteristics have often impacted on this progress. This paper analyzes whether specific socioeconomic factors affect access to improved water sources in the rural areas of developing countries. In particular, we analyze access to ‘total improved’, piped on premises, as well as other improved sources of access in rural areas for low income, low-middle income, and high-middle income countries. Our results suggest that gross national income (GNI); female primary completion rate; agriculture; growth of rural population; and governance indicators, such as political stability, control of corruption, or regulatory quality are variables related to water access, although specific associations depend on the source of water and income group examined. Understanding these interrelations could be of great importance for decision makers in the water sector as well as for future research on this topic.
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