Under Pressure: Women's Leadership During the COVID-19 Crisis

44 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2021 Last revised: 11 Nov 2021

See all articles by Raphael Bruce

Raphael Bruce

Insper Institute of Education and Research

Alexsandros Cavgias

Ghent University

Luis Meloni

University of São Paulo

Mário Remígio

University of São Paulo

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

Bruce, Raphael and Cavgias, Alexsandros and Meloni, Luis and Remígio, Mário, Under Pressure: Women's Leadership During the COVID-19 Crisis (July 9, 2021). Journal of Development Economics, January 2022, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3883010 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3883010

Raphael Bruce (Contact Author)

Insper Institute of Education and Research ( email )

R Quata 300
Sao Paulo, 04542-030

Alexsandros Cavgias

Ghent University ( email )

Coupure Links 653
Ghent, 9000

Luis Meloni

University of São Paulo ( email )

São Paulo, São Paulo

HOME PAGE: http://luismeloni.com

Mário Remígio

University of São Paulo ( email )

Av. Prof. Luciano Gualberto 380
Sao Paulo, 05508-010

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics