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Female-led countries handled coronavirus better, new study suggests


Aug. 19 2020, Updated 6:08 a.m. ET

A new study has concluded that countries led by women had “systematically and significantly better” outcomes when it came to handling the coronavirus pandemic. The study found that countries led by women closed down earlier and averaged half as many deaths as countries led by men.

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The analysis, published by the Center for Economic Policy Research and the World Economic Forum and based on the response of 194 countries suggests that this success “may be explained by the proactive and coordinated policy responses.” 

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The study noted that some clear outliers had to be addressed. New Zealand and Germany—both led by women—had relatively few coronavirus deaths, while the United States has been widely criticized for their response. Even after these outliers were removed, women outperformed men.

“Our results clearly indicate that women leaders reacted more quickly and decisively in the face of potential fatalities,” Supriya Garikipati, a developmental economist at Liverpool University, told The Guardian.

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“In almost all cases, they locked down earlier than male leaders in similar circumstances. While this may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths in these countries.”

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To determine the effectiveness of a leaders response, researchers looked at policies that were implemented to slow the spread of coronavirus and the subsequent number of cases and deaths.

Since only 19 of the countries were led by women, the researchers paired each female-led country with “nearest neighbor” countries based on population, gross domestic product, and other factors. For example, Germany, New Zealand, and Bangladesh were paired with the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Pakistan.

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“This analysis clearly confirms that when women-led countries are compared to countries similar to them along a range of characteristics, they have performed better, experiencing fewer cases as well as fewer deaths,” Garikipati explained.

She added that women “were risk-averse with regard to lives” and locked their countries down earlier than male leaders. Garikipati also suggested that men were “more willing to take risks in the domain of the economy.”

The study showed a “significant and systematic difference” and Garikipati concluded that “being female-led has provided countries with an advantage in the current crisis.”


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