Coping Strategies and Inequalities during the COVID-19 Pandemic Period: Evidence from Kenya

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Giovanis, Eleftherios
Ozdamar, Oznur
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African Economic Research Consortium
Governments worldwide have implemented stringent lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, which has had an adverse impact on employment, affecting people's public life, health, and wellbeing. People have witnessed job losses, cuts in wages, and a decline in their living standards and quality of life. This study aims to estimate the inequalities and wellbeing costs, demonstrating the living standards necessary to make up for people's wage reduction or job losses. In particular, we aim to explore the coping strategies used to enhance their wellbeing compared to those of households without a coping strategy. We use food insecurity as a measure of wellbeing outcomes. The empirical analysis relies on detailed household surveys from the World Bank Microdata Library. We use seven waves of the Panel COVID-19 Rapid Response Phone Survey with Households in 2020‒2022 in Kenya. Also, the results highlight the potential inequalities of the COVID-19 pandemic across gender and types of workers, such as those employed in the informal sector and on temporary contracts. The findings show that specific coping strategies, such as delayed payment obligations, credit purchases, and reduced non-food consumption, are associated with larger inequalities. Regarding the gender of the head of the household, the results suggest that the disparities between female-headed households that had to cope with income and employment loss and female-headed households that did not require to follow any strategy are significantly higher compared to their male counterparts. We derive similar concluding remarks when we consider households with social security coverage and the type of employment contract. Key words: Coping strategies; COVID-19; Food insecurity; Inequalities; Kenya; Panel data; Sub-Saharan region; Risks; World Bank microdata.