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Socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 in low-income countries


  • Anna Josephson

    (University of Arizona)

  • Talip Kilic

    (World Bank)

  • Jeffrey D. Michler

    (University of Arizona)


The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and attempts to limit its spread have resulted in a contraction of the global economy. Here we document the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic among households, adults and children in low-income countries. To do so, we rely on longitudinal household survey data from Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda, originating from pre-COVID-19 face-to-face household surveys plus phone surveys implemented during the pandemic. We estimate that 256 million individuals—77% of the population—live in households that have lost income during the pandemic. Attempts to cope with this loss are exacerbated by food insecurity and an inability to access medicine and staple foods. Finally, we find that student–teacher contact has dropped from a pre-COVID-19 rate of 96% to just 17% among households with school-aged children. These findings can inform decisions by governments and international organizations on measures to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suggested Citation

  • Anna Josephson & Talip Kilic & Jeffrey D. Michler, 2021. "Socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 in low-income countries," Nature Human Behaviour, Nature, vol. 5(5), pages 557-565, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:nat:nathum:v:5:y:2021:i:5:d:10.1038_s41562-021-01096-7
    DOI: 10.1038/s41562-021-01096-7

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    Cited by:

    1. Hammond, James & Siegal, Kim & Milner, Daniel & Elimu, Emmanuel & Vail, Taylor & Cathala, Paul & Gatera, Arsene & Karim, Azfar & Lee, Ja-Eun & Douxchamps, Sabine & Tu, Mai Thanh & Ouma, Emily & Lukuyu, 2022. "Perceived effects of COVID-19 restrictions on smallholder farmers: Evidence from seven lower- and middle-income countries," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 198(C).
    2. Noam Angrist & Peter Bergman & Moitshepi Matsheng, 2022. "Experimental evidence on learning using low-tech when school is out," Nature Human Behaviour, Nature, vol. 6(7), pages 941-950, July.
    3. Kristina Gligorić & Arnaud Chiolero & Emre Kıcıman & Ryen W. White & Robert West, 2022. "Population-scale dietary interests during the COVID-19 pandemic," Nature Communications, Nature, vol. 13(1), pages 1-14, December.
    4. Gourlay, Sydney & Kilic, Talip & Martuscelli, Antonio & Wollburg, Philip & Zezza, Alberto, 2021. "Viewpoint: High-frequency phone surveys on COVID-19: Good practices, open questions," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 105(C).
    5. Contreras-Gonzalez, Ivette & Oseni, Gbemisola & Palacios-Lopez, Amparo & Pieters, Janneke & Weber, Michael, 2022. "Inequalities in Job Loss and Income Loss in Sub-Saharan Africa during the COVID-19 Crisis," IZA Discussion Papers 15406, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Pinkovetskaia Iuliia, 2022. "Impact of Covid-19 pandemic on household income: results of a survey of the economically active population," Studia Universitatis „Vasile Goldis” Arad – Economics Series, Sciendo, vol. 32(1), pages 43-57, March.
    7. Brubaker, Joshua & Kilic, Talip & Kilic, Talip, 2021. "Representativeness of Individual-Level Data in COVID-19 Phone Surveys: Findings from Sub-Saharan Africa," 2021 Conference, August 17-31, 2021, Virtual 315175, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    8. Jana Hamdan & Yuanwei Xu, 2022. "COVID-19 Lockdown Compliance, Financial Stress, and Acceleration in Technology Adoption in Rural Uganda," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 2007, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    9. Abdullah Kaviani Rad & Redmond R. Shamshiri & Hassan Azarm & Siva K. Balasundram & Muhammad Sultan, 2021. "Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Food Security and Agriculture in Iran: A Survey," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(18), pages 1-19, September.
    10. Pattaphol Yuktadatta & Shunsuke Ono & Mostafa Saidur Rahim Khan & Yoshihiko Kadoya, 2022. "Satisfaction with the COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Policy: A Study of the Special Cash Payment Policy for Residents of Japan," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(6), pages 1-15, March.
    11. Prakash Kumar Paudel & Rabin Bastola & Sanford D. Eigenbrode & Amaël Borzée & Santosh Thapa & Dana Rad & Jayaraj Vijaya Kumaran & Suganthi Appalasamy & Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain & Anirban Ash & Raju , 2022. "Perspectives of scholars on the origin, spread and consequences of COVID-19 are diverse but not polarized," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 9(1), pages 1-11, December.

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