Food Security and Human Mobility During the COVID-19 Lockdown

51 Pages Posted: 15 May 2020

See all articles by Prithwiraj Choudhury

Prithwiraj Choudhury

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Wesley W Koo

INSEAD

Xina LI

INSEAD

Nishant Kishore

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Satchit Balsari

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Tarun Khanna

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Date Written: May 13, 2020

Abstract

During the COVID-19 crisis, millions of migrants around the world face food insecurity. This could force migrants to travel during the pandemic, exposing them to health risks and accelerating the spread of the virus. Anecdotal evidence demonstrates the importance of enforcing food security policies to tide the crisis. However, the effects of these policies on containing mobility during the crisis remain unknown. Using mobility data from Facebook, we demonstrate that a policy to guarantee food security that has attracted attention from the Supreme Court of India — portable ration cards — is related to lower mobility during India’s COVID-19 lockdown. Intra-state portable ration cards, which give migrants access to food when they move within their state, are associated with 12% lower intra-state mobility. This effect is particularly strong for states that have fully implemented the policy compared to states that have partially implemented it. However, inter-state portability of ration cards is not related to reduced inter-state mobility, suggesting frictions in implementing the policy across state borders. We also find that food distribution activities by ration shops and civil society actors at the local level are associated with reduced mobility both within states and across state borders. Our study provides generalizable lessons for policymakers around the world: food security policies are essential for helping migrants restrict their travel during the pandemic. Policy implementation requires lead time; therefore, central governments need to coordinate with local actors to increase food distribution to migrants in the immediate term.

Suggested Citation

Choudhury, Prithwiraj and Koo, Wesley W and LI, Xina and Kishore, Nishant and Balsari, Satchit and Khanna, Tarun, Food Security and Human Mobility During the COVID-19 Lockdown (May 13, 2020). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 20-113, Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 20-113, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3600376 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3600376

Prithwiraj Choudhury (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Wesley W Koo

INSEAD ( email )

1 Ayer Rajah Ave
Singapore, Singapore 138676
Singapore

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.insead.edu/faculty-research/faculty/wesley-wuyi--koo

Xina LI

INSEAD ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
77305 Fontainebleau Cedex
France

Nishant Kishore

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health ( email )

677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA MA 02115
United States

Satchit Balsari

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health ( email )

677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA MA 02115
United States

Tarun Khanna

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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