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Publication | 8 April 2021

The Short-Term Impacts of COVID-19 on Households in Developing Countries: An Overview Based on a Harmonized Data Set of High-Frequency Surveys

This paper documents the impacts of COVID-19 on households across 34 developing countries, accounting for a combined population of almost 1.4 billion. It analyses the cross- and within-country effects on employment, income, food security, and learning. The findings show that in the average country, 36 percent of respondents stopped working in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, over 64 percent of households reported decreases in income, and over 30 per-cent of children were unable to continue learning during school closures.

Pandemic-induced loss of jobs and income translated into heightened food insecurity at the household level, disproportionally affecting vulnerable segments of the population: the incidence of food insecurity being four percentage points higher in households where the respondent has lost his/her job, and eight percentage points higher for households who experienced a decrease in total income. To the extent that worsening food security persists through lower incomes and rising food prices, and affects diets of children, the pandemic could have long-term effects through the causal impact of early childhood malnutrition on educational and socio-economic outcomes later in life.

The unequal impacts of the pandemic across socioeconomic groups risk cementing inequality of opportunity and undermining social mobility and call for policies to foster an inclusive recovery and strengthen resilience to future shocks.

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