The Coronavirus Pandemic and Food Security – New Working Paper

The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the world. We all know this, and live it every single day. One of the many questions swirling around the pandemic is what are the consequences of the pandemic on outcomes other than case counts and mortality?

Existing predictions estimate that the coronavirus pandemic will increase the number of food-insecure people around the world by 11 percent (an increase of roughly 83.5 million people). In a paper now included in the World Bank’s Policy Research Working Paper Series, Serge Adjognon, Aly Sanoh, and I study whether this prediction reflects reality when we examine actual data from Mali.

Here is the abstract:

This paper documents some of the first estimates of the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on food security in a low- and middle-income country context. It combines nationally representative pre-pandemic household survey data with follow-up phone survey data from Mali and exploits sub-national variation in the intensity of pandemic-related disruptions between urban and rural areas. These disruptions stem from both government policies aiming to slow the spread of the virus and also individual behavior motivated by fear of contracting the virus. The paper finds evidence of increasing food insecurity in Mali associated with the pandemic. Difference-in-difference estimates show that moderate food insecurity increased by about 8 percentage points—a 33 percent increase—in urban areas compared with rural areas in Mali. The estimates are substantially larger than existing predictions of the average effect of the pandemic on food security globally and therefore highlights the critical importance of understanding effect heterogeneity.

We would really appreciate any comments or feedback you may have as we continue to work on editing this paper. Our work here, focusing on Mali, represents just one of several studies that investigate the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on food security. Keep an eye out for a future review of that nascent literature in the next few months.

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