Browsers Don't Lie? Gender Differences in the Effects of the Indian Covid-19 Lockdown on Digital Activity and Time Use

44 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2021 Last revised: 10 Jan 2022

See all articles by Amalia R. Miller

Amalia R. Miller

University of Virginia - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Kamalini Ramdas

London Business School - Department of Management Science and Operations

Alp Sungu

London Business School

Date Written: September 24, 2021

Abstract

We measure the digital impact of the initial Indian COVID-19 lockdown using an online survey coupled with consensually provided browser history records from over 1,000 individuals, spanning over 30 million website visits. Both men and women in our sample dramatically increased their internet activity during the lockdown, which reflects the heightened importance of digital access, but men’s activity increased by significantly more. Gender differences are present overall and for key categories including leisure, production, video streaming and social media. The exception is for self-investment through online learning websites and educational YouTube videos, where men and women had similar significant increases. Among full-time employed respondents, women’s lower browser usage is mainly in leisure browsing, while it is concentrated in productive activities among part-time workers and non-workers. The lockdown also saw a significant reduction in women’s online job search, alongside a significant increase in men’s, with larger effects among likely job seekers, indicating potentially persistent harm to women’s employment. The gender gap is larger among parents, consistent with increased childcare obligations as the driver. Yet in our survey, fathers self-reported significantly larger increases in childcare time than mothers. This relative increase in paternal childcare was not corroborated in partners’ reports or in childcare-related browser usage, which we identify leveraging machine learning methods to analyze text from website titles and YouTube video descriptions. The inconsistency within the self-reported data and contrast with the digital trace data underscore the value of accessing objective “digital footprint” records to gain insight into time use and activity.

Keywords: digital activity, data triangulation, data privacy, gender, COVID-19 lockdown, time use

Suggested Citation

Miller, Amalia R. and Ramdas, Kamalini and Sungu, Alp, Browsers Don't Lie? Gender Differences in the Effects of the Indian Covid-19 Lockdown on Digital Activity and Time Use (September 24, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3930079 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3930079

Amalia R. Miller

University of Virginia - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 400182
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4182
United States

HOME PAGE: http://people.virginia.edu/~am5by/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Kamalini Ramdas

London Business School - Department of Management Science and Operations ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London, London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

Alp Sungu (Contact Author)

London Business School ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London, London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

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