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Children and COVID-19 Research Library

UNICEF Innocenti's curated library of COVID-19 + Children research

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Cash transfers in pandemic times: evidence, practices, and implications from the largest scale up in history

Gentilini Ugo

Institution: The World Bank
Published: July 2022
Is Coronavirus (Covid-19) a “game changer” for cash transfers? This tantalizing question has animated a large body of recent literature and over 60 virtual panels. This paper offers some clues to address the question by bringing together data, evaluations and practical experiences generated over the course of the pandemic. In particular, the paper flashes out differences between Covid-19 and other crises; it lays out an anatomy of global responses and offers novel data analysis around stylized international trends; synthesizes fresh empirical evidence on response effectiveness based on over 40 evaluations; discusses country-level operational practices as emerging from an array of high and lower-income contexts; and distills key insights with possible future implications.
Analysis of learning in Armenia
Institution: The World Bank
Published: June 2022
The education sector in Armenia has challenges with low learning levels and additional pressures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Bank’s human capital index (HCI) shows that a child who starts school at age four in Armenia can expect to complete 11.3 years of schooling by the age of 18. An analysis of learning outcomes factoring in what children actually learn, however, shows that expected years of schooling equate to only eight years. This results in a learning gap of 3.3 years. The COVID-19 pandemic may have exerted additional hurdles to improve learning outcomes. Due to the pandemic, Armenia risks losing 0.3 learning-adjusted year of schooling as calculated by World Bank simulations. This translates to an average annual earning loss of US$6,457 per student. Additionally, around 26 percent of children at late primary-school age in Armenia are not proficient in reading.2 This, also known as learning poverty, means being unable to read and understand a short, age-appropriate text by age 10. Learning poverty in Armenia is 17.2 percentage points worse than the average for the ECA region (8.9 percent on average). The main motivation of the report is to analyze critical human capital dynamics that play into labor productivity, especially that of learning and its determinants. Armenia’s performance in international assessments have been relatively below average but slightly improving over the last decade. This report is also exploring the overall performance of Armenia in terms of learning, where any improvements have occurred and whether they are timely and sufficient in ensuring sustainable growth and productivity. The report will first look at the background of the education system in Armenia including education expenditures and explain the methodology of the study; then analyze the quality of education; focus on differences in student performance across regions followed by factors associated with overall learning outcomes. Finally, it will present recommended ways forward based on the analysis.
Two years after: saving a generation
Institution: *UNICEF, The World Bank, UNESCO
Published: June 2022

In the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in Latin America and the Caribbean. The region has suffered a triple curse, as it faced the largest combined impact in health, economic and educational terms. The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people´s lives, livelihoods, and human capital formation represents, without doubt, one of the worst crises in LAC’s history. As we seek to rebuild better and foster more inclusive and sustainable growth, the main concern, nonetheless, is not the heavy toll of the pandemic, but the future of an entire generation of children and young people who have endured this massive shock. This report is the first evidence-based assessment of this educational catastrophe in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report intends to systematically document the impact that COVID-19 has had on the region’s education sector two years after. The 24 months since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 is described sequentially, focusing firstly on the features of the “triple curse”, and then on the direct impact on schooling, learning and skills development. The report also addresses significant cross-sectoral impacts, namely those related to digital and transferable skills.

The State of Global Learning Poverty: 2022 update
Institution: The World Bank, UNESCO, *UNICEF
Published: June 2022
The world is in the depths of a learning crisis, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. This report finds that COVID-19-related school closures and other disruptions have sharply increased learning poverty, a measure of children unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10. The report, The State of Global Learning Poverty: 2022 Update, a joint publication of the World Bank, UNICEF, FCDO, USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and in partnership with UNESCO, stresses that even before the pandemic, there was already a learning crisis. Since then, COVID-19 has sharply increased learning poverty, with COVID-driven school disruptions exacerbating the severe pre-pandemic learning crisis.
An analysis of COVID-19 student learning loss

Harry Patrinos; Anthony Vegas; Emiliana Carter-Rau (et al.)

Institution: The World Bank
Published: May 2022
COVID-19 caused significant disruption to the global education system. Early reviews of the first wave of lockdowns and school closures suggested significant learning loss in a few countries. A more recent and thorough analysis of recorded learning loss evidence documented since the beginning of the school closures between March 2020 and March 2022 finds even more evidence of learning loss. Most studies observed increases in inequality where certain demographics of students experienced more significant learning losses than others. But there are also outliers, countries that managed to limit the amount of loss. This review aims to consolidate all the available evidence and documents the empirical findings. Thirty-six robust studies were identified, the majority of which find learning losses on average amounting to 0.17 of a standard deviation, equivalent to roughly a one-half year’s worth of learning. These findings confirm that learning loss is real and significant, even compared to the first year of the pandemic. Further work is needed to increase the quantity of studies produced, and to ascertain the reasons for learning loss and in a few cases mitigation of loss.
School is closed: simulating the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic–related school disruptions in Kuwait

Simon Bilo; Mohamed Ihsan Ajwad; Ebtesam AlAnsari (et al.)

Institution: The World Bank
Published: May 2022

The schooling disruption caused by COVID-19 in Kuwait is among the longest in the world. Using the similarities between the schooling disruptions due to the Gulf War and the schooling disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this note shows that students in school during the COVID-19 pandemic face significant reductions in the present value of their lifetime income. Furthermore, the findings show that students in higher grades during the pandemic are likely to face larger reductions in lifetime earnings than students in lower grades. Kuwaiti females in secondary school who will become civil service workers face a reduction of close to $40,000. The corresponding reduction for males is more than $70,000.

Childcare, COVID-19 and female firm exit: impact of COVID-19 school closure policies on global gender gaps in business outcomes

Markus Goldstein; Paula Gonzalez; Sreelakshmi Papineni (et al.)

Institution: The World Bank
Published: April 2022
This paper estimates the impact of a large negative childcare shock on gender gaps in entrepreneurship using the shock created by national COVID-19 school closure policies. The paper leverages a unique data set of monthly enterprise data collected from a repeated cross-section of business owners across 50 countries via Facebook throughout 2020 and in 2021. The paper shows that, globally, female-led firms were, on average, 4 percentage points more likely to close their business and experienced larger revenue declines than male-led firms during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 (male firms closed at a rate of 17 percent in 2020, and 12 percent in 2021). The gender gap in firm closures persisted into 2021. The closing of schools, a key part of the care infrastructure, led to higher business closures, and women with children were more likely to close their business in response to a school closure policy than men with children. Female entrepreneurs were found to take on a greater share of the increase in the domestic and care work burden than male entrepreneurs. Finally, the paper finds that women entrepreneurs in societies with more conservative norms with respect to gender equality were significantly more likely to close their business and increase the time spent on domestic and care responsibilities in response to a school closure policy, relative to women in more liberal societies. The paper provides global evidence of a motherhood penalty and childcare constraint to help explain gender inequalities in an entrepreneurship context.
Assessing the damage: early evidence on impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on girls and women in Africa
Institution: The World Bank
Published: April 2022
At the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there was global concern about the negative indirect impacts the crisis would have on girls and women and their human capital. Two years into the crisis, this brief summarizes the evidence to date on how the prediction of a shadow crisis has played out in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).The brief is intended as a call to action for policymakers, since available research sets off multiple alarm bells. It also proposes urgent policy responses. Evidence to date confirms that the COVID-19 crisis has had profound negative impacts on the education, health, employment and empowerment of girls and women including in SSA. Available data is still limited, but what is known to date suggests that we are seeing the tip of an iceberg. Many impacts will have long term repercussions for girls’ and women’s human capital. Decision makers are at a pivotal moment to invest now in women and girls, to neutralize immediate but also prolonged costs to individuals, societies and economies.
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for children in Kenya

Emma Cameron; Antonia Delius; Amanda Devercelli (et al.)

Institution: The World Bank
Published: April 2022
Based on survey data for more than 5,000 Kenyan households, this study shows that, despite government efforts to introduce remote learning options, access to education declined markedly during a nine-month-long period of school closures. Remote learning was adopted by only a small minority of students, and disadvantaged children fell further behind. During the first semester of 2021, reports of alterations in children’s externalizing and internalizing behavior more than tripled, with one in five children being affected by June 2021. After schools reopened, children learning remotely or through alternative means were more likely to suffer from these disruptions in emotional well-being than those who returned to school. While the medium- and long-term effects on learning outcomes and human capital remain unknown, the findings suggest that girls and children from poorer and less educated households have been disproportionately affected.
Balancing work and childcare: evidence from COVID-19 school closures and reopenings in Kenya

Pierre E. Biscaye; Dennis Egger; Utz J. Pape

Institution: The World Bank
Published: March 2022
This paper identifies the impact of childcare responsibilities on adult labor supply in the context of COVID-19-related school closures in Kenya. It compares changes in parents’ labor participation after schools partly reopened in October 2020 for households with children in a grade eligible to return against households with children in adjacent grades. Using nationally-representative panel data from World Bank phone surveys in 2020–21, the findings show that the partial reopening increases affected adults’ weekly labor hours by 22 percent, with increases concentrated in household agriculture. The results suggest that school closures account for over 30 percent of the fall in average work hours in the first few months after COVID-19 cases were detected. The effects are driven by changes in household childcare burdens and child agricultural labor when a student returns to school. The impacts are not significantly different by sex of the adult. Although both women and men increased hours spent on childcare during the pandemic, women benefited more than men from reductions in childcare needs, but took on more of the childcare burden when the returning student was a net childcare provider. The results highlight the importance of siblings in household childcare and suggest that policies that increase childcare availability and affordability could increase adult labor supply in Kenya.
The impact of COVID-19 on the welfare of households with children: an overview based on High Frequency Phone Surveys
Institution: *UNICEF, The World Bank
Published: March 2022

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have been widespread and disproportionately affected vulnerable segments of the population, including children and their families. The modest progress made in reducing child poverty has been reversed in all parts of the world by COVID-19. Impact of COVID-19 on the welfare of households with children – a joint World Bank and UNICEF publication - presents findings from data from high frequency phone surveys collected in 35 countries. The analysis identifies the impact of the crisis on households without and with (few or many) children, both focusing on the initial impact in 2020 but also the subsequent evolution of this impact. The analysis focus on key areas such as income and job loss, food insecurity, social protection programs and access to education, shedding light on the importance of placing children in poverty and their families highly on the agenda in the COVID-19 response and recovery.

Where are we on education recovery? taking the global pulse of a RAPID response
Institution: *UNICEF, UNESCO, The World Bank
Published: March 2022

Two years into the COVID-19 global pandemic, education has been seriously disrupted. In response to this crisis, the global priority remains to ensure every child is supported so they can return to school and catch up on lost learning. Recognizing the need to accelerate education recovery with urgent, at-scale action, this joint report by UNICEF in partnership with UNESCO and the World Bank highlights staggering levels of learning loss globally and takes stock of the measures being taken by countries to mitigate learning losses as schools reopen. Based on a survey of 122 UNICEF country and fundraising offices administered in early March 2022, the report presents the importance of and progress made in five key actions for education recovery, the RAPID: Reach every child and retain them in school; Assess learning levels; Prioritize teaching the fundamentals; Increase catch-up learning and progress beyond what was lost; and Develop psychosocial health and well-being so every child is ready to learn.

Prioritizing learning during COVID-19: the most effective ways to keep children learning during and postpandemic

The short- and long-term impact of the Covid-19 crisis on children’s education, wellbeing, and future productivity is profound. Almost two years after schools began closing in most countries across the world, governments need to take urgent steps to limit the damage.

What do you want to be: youth aspirations in the time of the COVID-19 crisis: evidence from three Sub-Saharan countries

Valentina Costa; Ivette Maria Contreras Gonzalez; Amparo Palacios-Lopez (et al.)

Institution: The World Bank
Published: January 2022
Understanding the aspirations and goals of the youth is essential to developing effective employment policies. Policies should be designed to allow educational and professional aspirations of young people to align with pathways to achieving them. The data collected is nationally representative and age distribution is similar across countries. Recent surveys on youth or sub-populations of youth have included questions to capture career aspirations and life goals in the time of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Incorporating the youth aspirations and employment module for High Frequency Phone Surveys (HFPS) into multitopic household surveys has several advantages. In conclusion, measuring youth aspirations helps shed light on the possible employment outcomes that can be observed in adulthood and play a role in breaking poverty circles, which is highly relevant for public policy.
Levels & trends in child mortality report 2021
Institution: *UNICEF, The World Bank, World Health Organisation
Published: December 2021

While the world was gripped by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, children continued to face the same crisis they have for decades: intolerably high mortality rates and vastly inequitable chances at life. In total, more than 5.0 million children under age 5, including 2.4 million newborns, along with 2.2 million children and youth aged 5 to 24 years – 43 per cent of whom are adolescents – died in 2020. This tragic and massive loss of life, most of which was due to preventable or treatable causes, is a stark reminder of the urgent need to end preventable deaths of children and young people. Data gaps remain a serious challenge to child mortality estimation and monitoring. Almost two thirds of low and middle income countries (97 out of 135) have no reliable mortality data in the past three years. And just 40 countries had high-quality national data for 2020 included in the estimation model, though national or subnational data were available for more than 80 countries or areas to help analyse excess mortality due to COVID-19.

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UNICEF Innocenti's Children and COVID-19 Library is a database collecting research from around the world on COVID-19 and its impacts on children and adolescents.


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COVID-19 & Children: Rapid Research Response

UNICEF Innocenti is mobilizing a rapid research response in line with UNICEF’s global response to the COVID-19 crisis. The initiatives we’ve begun will provide the broad range of evidence needed to inform our work to scale up rapid assessment, develop urgent mitigating strategies in programming and advocacy, and preparation of interventions to respond to the medium and longer-term consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. The research projects cover a rapid review of evidence, education analysis, and social and economic policies.