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Is Covid-19 "The Great Leveler"? The Critical Role of Social Identity in Lockdown-induced Job Losses


  • Deshpande, Ashwini
  • Ramachandran, Rajesh


Using nationally representative panel data for 21,799 individuals between May 2018 and April 2020, this paper investigates whether the Covid-19 pandemic was indeed a "Great Leveler" in the sense that it imposed similar and equivalent labour market shocks on different caste groups. We find that while all caste groups lost jobs in the first month of the lockdown, the job losses for lowest-ranked caste are greater by factor of three. The data shows that the disproportionate effects stems from lower levels of human capital and over-representation in vulnerable jobs for the lowest ranked caste groups in the country.

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  • Deshpande, Ashwini & Ramachandran, Rajesh, 2020. "Is Covid-19 "The Great Leveler"? The Critical Role of Social Identity in Lockdown-induced Job Losses," GLO Discussion Paper Series 622, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:622

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cho, Seung Jin & Winters, John V., 2020. "The Distributional Impacts of Early Employment Losses from COVID-19," GLO Discussion Paper Series 554, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    2. Ashwini Deshpande, 2020. "The Covid-19 Pandemic and Lockdown: First Effects on Gender Gaps in Employment and Domestic Work in India," Working Papers 30, Ashoka University, Department of Economics, revised 02 Jun 2020.
    3. Tomaz Cajner & Leland D. Crane & Ryan A. Decker & John Grigsby & Adrian Hamins-Puertolas & Erik Hurst & Christopher Johann Kurz & Ahu Yildirmaz, 2020. "The U.S. Labor Market During the Beginning of the Pandemic Recession," Working Papers 2020-58_Revision, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
    4. Ashwini Deshpande & Rajesh Ramachandran, 2020. "Which Indian Children are Short and Why? Social Identity, Childhood Malnutrition and Cognitive Outcomes," Working Papers 27, Ashoka University, Department of Economics.
    5. Deshpande, Ashwini & Ramachandran, Rajesh, 2019. "Traditional hierarchies and affirmative action in a globalizing economy: Evidence from India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 63-78.
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    Cited by:

    1. Paaritosh Nath & S. Nelson Mandela & Aishwarya Gawali, 2023. "Loss, Recovery and the Long Road Ahead: Tracking India's Informal Workers Through the Pandemic," The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, Springer;The Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE), vol. 66(1), pages 329-354, March.
    2. Beyer, Robert C.M. & Jain, Tarun & Sinha, Sonalika, 2023. "Lights out? COVID-19 containment policies and economic activity," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(C).
    3. Praveen Jha & Preksha Mishra, 2022. "Persistent Vulnerabilities in the World of Work and Contemporary Capitalism: Some Reflections on India," The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, Springer;The Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE), vol. 65(2), pages 347-372, June.
    4. Ashwini Deshpande, 2022. "The Covid-19 pandemic and gendered division of paid work, domestic chores and leisure: evidence from India’s first wave," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 39(1), pages 75-100, April.
    5. Arjan Haan, 2020. "Labour Migrants During the Pandemic: A Comparative Perspective," The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, Springer;The Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE), vol. 63(4), pages 885-900, December.
    6. Archana Dang & Mausumi Das & Indrani Gupta, 2023. "COVID-19 And The Unequal Distribution Of Poverty Risks: Evidence From Urban India," IEG Working Papers 458, Institute of Economic Growth.

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    More about this item


    Covid-19; lockdown; caste; employment; India;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J70 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - General


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