CAFRAL-SRU Brown Bag Seminar - Lights Out? COVID-19 Containment Policies And Economic Output
Speaker(s) Dr. Sonalika Sinha, SRU, Reserve Bank of India Publication Online

This paper estimates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in India on aggregate economic activity as measured by night-time lights, with a focus on differential containment policies implemented after a uniform, nationwide lockdown. Using this variation in a differences-in-differences empirical framework, we estimate the cost of COVID-19 vulnerability and the simultaneous containment strategy at the district level. We find that night-time light intensity, a high-frequency proxy for economic activity, declined by 7.2% (0.035 standard deviations) for district zones with greatest vulnerabilities and restrictions and by 1.3% (0.008 standard deviations) for district zones with intermediate vulnerabilities and restrictions, as compared to district zones with least vulnerabilities and restrictions. The magnitude of the night-time light reduction was greater in May 2020, compared to June. We find that the Red and Orange zone districts in more developed areas (more urbanized, with more deposits, formal employment and population density) experienced relatively lower nightlight intensity in the unlock period, suggesting a sharper decline in economic output in those districts. Examining heterogeneity by mean district age reveals younger districts experienced lower economic costs, consistent with younger populations adapting better. Our findings show the extensive economic costs of COVID-19 pandemic on districts in India.