Women's Well-Being During a Pandemic and its Containment
The COVID-19 pandemic brought the dual crises of disease and the containment policies designed to mitigate it. Yet, there is little evidence on the impacts of these policies on women, who are likely to be especially vulnerable, in lower-income countries. We conduct a large phone survey and leverage India's geographically-varying containment policies to estimate the association between both the pandemic and its containment policies, and measures of women's well-being, including mental health and food security. On aggregate, the pandemic resulted in dramatic income losses, increases in food insecurity, and declines in female mental health. While potentially crucial to stem the spread of COVID-19 cases, we find that greater prevalence of containment policies is associated with increased food insecurity, particularly for women, and with reduced female mental health. Average containment levels are associated with a 39-40% increase in the likelihood of sadness, depression, and hopelessness among women and with an increase in the likelihood that women feel more worried by 45% of the variable mean. Particularly vulnerable groups of women, those with daughters and those living in female-headed households, experience larger declines in mental health.
We thank David Cutler, Mushfiq Mobarak, and conference participants at GLM|LIC and at the NBER for helpful feedback. We are grateful to the GLM|LIC IZA Special Covid Call Grant #5-708 for funding this research. William Stukas provided exceptional research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.