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 in lower-income countries, where there may be limited social safety nets to absorb these shocks. We conduct a large phone survey and leverage India's geographically varied containment policies to estimate the association between the pandemic and 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, the greater prevalence of containment policies is associated with increased food insecurity, particularly for women, and reduced female mental health. For surveyed women, moving from zero to average containment levels is associated with a 38% increase in the likelihood of reporting more depression, a 73% increase in reporting more exhaustion, and a 44% increase in reporting more anxiety. Women whose social position may make them more vulnerable—those with daughters and those living in female-headed households—experience even larger declines in mental health.
We thank David Cutler, Mushfiq Mobarak, and conference participants at GLMjLIC and at the NBER for helpful feedback. We are grateful to the GLMjLIC 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.
Natalie Bau & Gaurav Khanna & Corinne Low & Manisha Shah & Sreyashi Sharmin & Alessandra Voena, 2022. "Women’s well-being during a pandemic and its containment," Journal of Development Economics, .