Women leaders react more decisively against pandemic

Covid-19 outcomes in female-led nations ‘systematically and significantly better’

Countries ruled by female political leaders went on lock down earlier and suffered half as many pandemic deaths on average as those led by males, indicates international research which included data from Ireland. In a paper published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), Prof Supriya Garikipati, of the University of Liverpool, and Prof Uma Kambhampati, of the University of Reading, policy responses and subsequent total Covid-19 cases and deaths across 194 countries for the first quarter of the pandemic, up to May 19, were analysed.

“Our results clearly indicate that women leaders reacted more quickly and decisively in the face of potential fatalities,” said Prof Garikipati.
“In almost all cases, they locked down earlier than male leaders in similar circumstances.

“While this may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths….”

Researchers analysed countries’ gross domestic product (GDP), total population, urban population density and the proportion of elderly residents, as well as annual health expenditure per capita, openness to international travel and general level of societal gender equality. With only 19 of the 194 countries led by women, they created “nearest neighbour countries” across the various demographics to balance out the small sample size, leading to comparisons such as Serbia (female-led) and Israel (male-led); New Zealand (female) and Ireland (male); Germany (female) and the UK (male); and Bangladesh (female) and Pakistan (male).

“Nearest neighbour analysis clearly confirms that when women-led countries are compared to countries similar to them along a range of characteristics, they have performed better, experiencing fewer cases as well as fewer deaths,” added Prof Garikipati.

On average, the researchers found that female-led countries locked down “earlier”, at significantly fewer deaths. While this may play into gender stereotypes around risk aversion, Prof Garikipati noted that “while women leaders were risk averse with regard to lives, they were prepared to take significant risks with their economies by locking down early”.

This, she said, suggested risk aversion may manifest differently in different domains, with women leaders being significantly more risk averse in the domain of human life, but more risk taking in the domain of the economy.

“Our findings show that Covid outcomes are systematically and significantly better in countries led by women and, to some extent, this may be explained by the proactive policy responses they adopted,” concluded Prof Garikipati.

“Even accounting for institutional context and other controls, being female-led has provided countries with an advantage in the current crisis.”

CEPR, http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3617953.

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