Research / BFI Working PaperDec 17, 2021

Inequality in India Declined during COVID

Arpit Gupta, Anup Malani, Bartosz Woda

We use a large, representative panel data set from India with monthly data on household finances to examine the incidence of economic harms during the COVID pandemic. We observe a sharp spike in poverty, peaking during India’s sharp but short lockdown. However, there was a striking decrease in income inequality outside the lockdown. There was a smaller decrease in consumption inequality, likely due to consumption smoothing. Evidence supports two mechanisms for the decline in income inequality: the capital income of top-quartile earners covaries more with aggregate income, and demand for labor fell more for higher quartiles.

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