Under Pressure: Women's Leadership During the COVID-19 Crisis
44 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2021 Last revised: 11 Nov 2021
Date Written: July 9, 2021
In this paper, we study the effect of women's public leadership in times of crisis. More specifically, we use a regression discontinuity design in close mayoral races between male and female candidates to understand the impact of having a woman as a mayor during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil. We provide evidence that municipalities under female leadership had fewer deaths and hospitalizations per 100 thousand inhabitants and enforced more non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g., mask usage and prohibition of gatherings). We also show that these results are not due to measures taken before the pandemic or other observable mayoral characteristics such as education or political preferences. Finally, we provide evidence that these effects are stronger in municipalities where Brazil's far-right president, who publicly disavowed the importance of non-pharmaceutical interventions, had a higher vote share in the 2018 election. Overall, our findings provide credible causal evidence that female leaders outperformed male ones when dealing with a global policy issue. Moreover, our results also showcase the role local leaders can play in counteracting bad policies implemented by populist leaders at the national level.
Note: Funding: This work has not been awarded grants by any research-supporting institution.
Declaration of Interests: All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
Keywords: Gender, Politics, Health, COVID-19, Brazil
JEL Classification: J16, D72, D78, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation