Young lives, interrupted: Short-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescents in low- and middle-income countries

COVID-19

Richard Freund (Quantitative Research Assistant, Young Lives) breaks down the research behind a new paper (published in COVID Economics and authored by Marta Favara, Richard Freund, Catherine Porter, Alan Sánchez and Douglas Scott) exploring the impact of the COVID-­19 pandemic on adolescents in the four Young Lives countries using data from the Young Lives at Work Covid phone surveys.

Adolescence is already a challenging period of life, but imagine trying to complete your education and enter the labour market during a global pandemic? Although medical research shows that the young are generally at lower risk in terms of the direct health effects of the novel corona virus (COVID-19), the economic effects are likely to be enduring for those starting their adult lives. In fact, international organisations, such as the United Nations, have warned that the pandemic may reduce the potential of an entire generation - aptly named the “lockdown generation” and/or “Generation COVID”.

In this new paper, we have explored the impact of the COVID­-19 pandemic on adolescents in the four Young Lives countries. Young Lives conducted a phone survey between June and October 2020, interviewing nearly 10,000 young people from two cohorts aged 19 and 26, who had already participated in the Young Lives survey five times (in person) since 2002.

The four study countries have had very diverse experiences since the beginning of the pandemic. Vietnam has been exceptionally successful at limiting the spread of the virus, while Peru has been one of the worst affected countries in the world in terms of COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita (as of October 2020).

Given these varied experiences, how have adolescents in each country been affected by the pandemic?

We found that, despite the low prevalence of the virus, fears around contracting COVID-19 among 19 year olds were still high in Peru, Ethiopia and India. In Peru and India, nearly half of the sample believed that they were at medium or high risk of contracting the virus and, in Ethiopia, this figure rose to nearly seven in 10. In Vietnam, fears were not as high, with only one in five participants considering themselves to be at medium or high risk.

One of the most common experiences across all countries was the negative impact that the pandemic has had on the economic situations of households. Even in Vietnam, where the number of COVID­-19 cases has been low, 60% of households reported a fall in income and/or a rise in expenses. In Ethiopia, Peru, and India, these economic impacts were even more prevalent, with 93% of households in India experiencing an economic shock (see figure 1 below).

 

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Figure 1. Economic shocks since the outbreak of COVID-19.

The degree to which those in education experienced interruptions varied by country. In Peru, 16% of adolescents who had been engaged in education before the pandemic had dropped out or not yet enrolled by mid-October. Worryingly, one in four of these children had not enrolled due to an inability to pay fees. In Ethiopia and India, more than one in five of those previously enrolled were still waiting for classes to resume. In Vietnam, the impact was the least severe, with 8% of previous students choosing not to enrol in education (in most cases this was due to the completion of their studies).

The pandemic also influenced the time use of adolescents. In all four countries, participants reported spending more time on childcare and performing more domestic work than before the pandemic. We found that households tended to resort to more traditional gender roles in time of stress, as the increase in household and caring responsibilities fell disproportionately on females in all countries, while young men tended to work more in the family business (see figure 2).

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Figure 2. Changes in time use during the lockdown.

Note: The bars show the percentage of the Younger Cohort who agree or partially agree with the statements.

Running out of food during the pandemic was also a serious concern. In Ethiopia and India, around one in every six households had run out of food since the beginning of the pandemic on one or more occasions. In Peru, this figure was around 13% of households, while in Vietnam it was much lower, at around 4%. In Ethiopia and India, this marked a significant movement away from the existing trend, with the proportion of households without food increasing by over 200% since 2016.

Comparison with 19 year olds in 2013

The two­ cohort panel structure of the Young Lives data allows us to compare the outcomes of the adolescents (Younger Cohort), with outcomes recorded for our Older Cohort when they had been surveyed at the same age. Previous research using Young Lives data, comparing the cohorts at age 15, showed an improvement in critical aspects of human development such as school enrolment, subjective well-being, and time spent on education. In 2020, just before the pandemic began, higher enrolment rates had continued to translate into higher education grade completion for the Younger Cohort compared to the Older Cohort seven years previous, at age 19.

In our analysis we exploited the fact that the two cohorts can be compared at the ages of 19, 15 and 12. To take into account that differences may have already appeared before the pandemic, we used a methodology in the spirit of a "difference-in-differences" estimator; effectively, this meant that we took the difference between the average Younger Cohort and Older Cohort outcomes at age 19 and subtracted any pre-existing differences between their outcomes at age 15, showing how any gap between the two cohorts had widened or narrowed.


We first analysed the impact that the pandemic has had on the subjective well-being of the Younger Cohort. Subjective well-being was measured in all rounds using the Cantril (1965) Self-anchoring Scale, known as Cantril's Ladder, which asked the respondent to visualise a ladder of nine steps, with the bottom step representing the worst life and the top step representing the best possible life. Respondents were asked to identify which step they presently stand on.

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Figure 3. Subjective well-being at ages 12, 15 and 19.

Figure 3 above shows the average ladder step for each cohort over time. Before 2020, the Younger Cohort had reported higher well-being than the Older Cohort at the same ages of 12 and 15 in all countries. This is no longer the case in Ethiopia, India and Peru. The exception is Vietnam, where the gap between Younger and Older Cohort has continued to increase. When thinking about the reasons as to why this may be, the results discussed earlier point to a number of areas of concern that could explain a drop in relative well-being for this cohort.

We also compared economic shocks between the two cohorts, focusing on whether the household had experienced job losses and/or losses in the source of income. The results suggested that, at age 19, the Younger Cohort was more likely to report a job/income loss in the household in all countries. Mirroring the country COVID-19 experiences, the increase was largest in Peru and smallest in Vietnam.

In line with the interruptions to education, we found that, at age 19, the Younger Cohort had experienced a significant fall in relative enrolment compared to the Older Cohort in all countries. Again, the magnitude of the relative reduction in enrolment was largest in Peru and smallest in Vietnam.

In the phone survey, we asked participants about their perception of the current wealth ranking of their household, and also asked them to give their wealth ranking just before the pandemic began.[1] We exploited this information and ran two separate regressions, one using the pre­pandemic wealth and one using the mid­pandemic wealth. We found that the Younger Cohort considered themselves to be worse off during the pandemic than before the pandemic in all countries except Vietnam. 

Potential long-term consequences

Our results above suggest that the current global pandemic is worsening the life-chances of adolescents at a crucial time in their lives. While these results are short-term, we considered two potential pathways suggesting that consequences may be long-lasting.

First, the sharp drop in well-being may have mental health consequences, and a body of evidence documents a vicious cycle between poverty and mental health. We found that, in all countries except Ethiopia, those who displayed symptoms consistent with at least mild depression and/or anxiety had experienced a greater fall in their subjective well-being. Given that there is little mental health support available in the four countries, the danger is that symptoms could become worse if left untreated and affect later life outcomes.

Second, we discussed the potential consequences of school dropout by looking at the trajectories of Older Cohort participants who had dropped out of school before the age of 19. Young Lives research indicates that young girls who dropped out of school were more likely to get married and have a child during adolescence than those who were still studying. This suggests that the potential increase in school dropout rates due to COVID-19 may have long-lasting consequences that could affect the earnings potential and socio-economic status of the Young Lives participants.

In this paper, we set out to explore the impact of the pandemic on adolescents in four countries with diverse COVID-19 experiences. The effects are evident across several dimensions of well­being, and young people’s lives have been affected in particular with regard to their educational engagement, work and responsibilities, with a resulting drop in well­being. Given this, we believe that COVID-­19 recovery packages should adopt a broad approach to ensure that targeted social protection programmes are effectively aligned with efforts to support young people to complete (quality) education, access decent jobs and develop skills. Recovery packages should also provide vital support services and address mental health issues.

Read the full article at CEPR’s Covid Economics

Pre-print citation: Favara, M., Freund, R., Porter, C., Sánchez, A., Scott, D. Young lives, interrupted: Short-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescents in low- and middle-income countries. Covid Economics 2021, 67:172-198.


[1] This asked participants to rank their household on a relative scale, with 1 representing ‘destitute’ and 6 representing ‘very rich’.

Follow us on Twitter @yloxford for news on Young LIves at Work. 

Young Lives’ research receives ringing endorsement from the PM’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education, Helen Grant MP.

Submitted by remote on Fri, 03/05/2021 - 22:43

Young Lives released our Call 3 headline reports yesterday (Thu 4 March) and the response has already been hugely encouraging.

It has always been part of our mission to make sure that our findings make their way to the policymakers who can use them to make a difference.  That is why we’re delighted that Helen Grant – the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education – has thrown her support behind our most recent findings.

News Release: COVID-19: Inequalities widen for poorest young people in developing countries

Submitted by remote on Thu, 03/04/2021 - 13:59

News Release: embargoed to 00.01 4th March. 

COVID-19 could reverse important gains in education attainment and future life chances for young people in developing countries - particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, according Young Lives at Work’s latest findings.

Listening to Young Lives at Work in India: Third Call

Poverty and shocks
Country report

This brief report provides headline findings from the third call in Young Lives at Work's COVID-19 Phone Survey in India.

The young people in our study were contacted by phone in November to find out about the continuing impact of the pandemic on their health, well-being, economic circumstances, education and work.  

Headlines from the first and second calls are available here. 

Additional statistical and summary tables from the third phone survey call can be found here.

 

COVID-19: managing the pandemic in 2021

COVID-19

As the global pandemic stretches into 2021, it is having a markedly different impact on each of our four research countries. India, Peru, Vietnam and Ethiopia are each grappling with a changing, uneven picture. Inida has begun reopening but continues to contend with a high number of cases. Ethiopia has a low total case number but this may be missing a number of asymptomatic cases. Vietnam has successfully avoided the kind of outbreak seen in other countries but is currently working to prevent a new rise.  Peru has an extensive number of cases and their response to the situation has pivoted to a regional one.

On Thursday 4th March, Young Lives will publish findings from the third of our Phone Survey calls into COVID-19’s impact on young people. In anticipation, our Country Directors offer an update on the pandemic in their countries, it’s continuing impact and the evolving response from their respective governments.

The state of COVID-19 in our Research Countries

 

Ethiopia

Ranking 71st in the world, the situation in Ethiopia remains better than the wider global COVID-19 picture. There have been 159,972 cases and 2,373 deaths (at a rate of 20 per million).

India

The country with the second highest number of cases with over 11 million, India now has 157,275 associated deaths. But there is significantly lower total cases per million, 8,009, then other countries with similarly high case totals.

Peru

Peru continues to grapple with an extensive COVID-19 pandemic, with over 46,500 deaths, with a death rate of 1.403 per million people, an increase since our last blog in November.

Vietnam

Having continued to respond successfully to COVID-19, Vietnam has seen an uptick in cases recently, with a total of 2,472 cases registered in the country and 545 active cases. But with 35 deaths, fatalities per million rate still stands at 0.4 and it is ranked 173rd in the world for cases.

Managing a global pandemic

 

Ethiopia

Despite low numbers reported, it is believed that there is a high proportion of cases, which are either being missed through low testing rates (with only around two million tested so far and approximately 5000 per day), which are asymptomatic or aren’t being treated as people avoid using health services unless their symptoms are severe. These factors, along with the delay in the spread of COVID-19 during the first wave, increase the fear of a second wave, particularly as currently over 10% of tests are returning positive.

The Ministry of Health and the Ethiopian Public Health Institute continue to raise awareness of the restrictions in place (notably with protection messages before every single mobile phone call). But fatigue has set in with regards to mask wearing and hand washing, and social distancing is hardly practised in crowded places like markets. bus stops and places of worship. Outside the capital city, there is little observation of these practices. Added to this, some of initial restrictions have been relaxed with people encouraged to go to work whilst taking the necessary precautions. Schools, colleges and universities have gradually begun to resume classes. Vaccinations are due to begin in March or April, with a hope of vaccinating 20% of the population in 2021.

Ethiopia's earlier COVID-19 restrictions impacted the poor and more marginalized sections of society, notably those reliant on informal work, wage labour and factory work. 

India

India appears to have successfully limited the spread of COVID-19, with a drop from nearly 100,000 new cases a day in September 2020, to a current rate of between 9-11,000, and fatalties down to 1.4% from a rate of 3.4% in the middle of June. India has two locally produced vaccines and has adminstered over 11 million doses to health and frontline workers so far. Cinema halls have now been allowed to open at full capacity and secondary schools have begun to reopen across the country. This is to provide children access to face-to-face learning to address the digital divide but also to start to fill the learning gaps and allow students to get back to their routine.

There is an overall fragility to employment in India, with three-quarters of work being informal (either self-employed or casual).  Sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction, trade, hotels and restaurants collectively make up nearly 80% of India’s work force and have been particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic and lockdown.

Peru

The government in Peru has issued province specific restrictions which are determined by case numbers, available beds in hospital and on the economic impact of the country’s initial response to the pandemic. Limits have been placed on office work and public events are prohibited. But face to face classes, suspended throughout 2020, may be able to reopen in time for the start of the new school year (March 15) in some areas - depending on local conditions. The government has created a remote program called Learning at Home, issued by TV and radio, as well as a web page. Internet access is and devices to learn on however, differ according to the level of household poverty. The government has purchased around a million computers and is expected to provide internet access to support the most vulnerable.

The pandemic has seen an impact on the level of stress and anxiety (as shown in Young Lives research). But there is hope as the vaccine rollout began in February, with a focus on medical personnel, police officers and fire workers.

Vietnam

Vietnam has seen the introduction of new measures following the detection of the Kent variant in a patient returning from the United Kingdom. This has included a stricter quarantine policy and schools ordered to shut one week ahead of schedule for the Lunar New Year Festival. This has felt particularly vital as new cases have been registered across 12 cities and provinces, since a pair of new community infections were confirmed on January 28th in the provinces of Hai Duong and Quang Ninh.

Testing capacity has been strengthened and extra health facilities are being reinforced in provinces. Major events and festivities for the New Year have been cancelled, whilst local lockdowns and travel restrictions between provinces have been introduced to limit the spread of the infections.

 

Looking ahead

 

Alula Pankhurst – Country Director, Ethiopia

‘The situation so far is under control and people have largely gone back to their normal lives. However, if the early signs that a second wave may be happening continue to increase, there is a serious risk that the country’s already overstretched health system could be overwhelmed.’

Renu Singh – Country Director, India

‘Even though the country continues to rank 13th among worst-hit nations by active cases, India has managed to dramatically lower the spread of infection and case fatality rates.’

Santiago Cueto – Country Director, Peru

'The arrival of the first one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in mid-February is a source of hope for the country. Vaccination is expected to continue all this year and well into 2022 before the population is protected.'

Nguyen Thang, Country Director, Vietnam

‘As the world entered 2021 with unprecedented death tolls and growing infections related to the coronavirus pandemic, Vietnam still emerged among one of the very few countries which were able to maintain a very positive scorecard.’

Headline reports from the Third Call of Young Lives at Work’s Phone Call Survey in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam will be published on 4th March. Young Lives At Work (YLAW) is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. For more on YLAW, please see our webpage or follow us on Twitter @yloxford, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Photo credit: © Young Lives / Enrique Cuneo. The images throughout our publications are of children living in circumstances and communities similar to the children within our study sample.

All COVID-19 figures are accurate as of Tuesday 2nd March and are sourced from here.

COVID-19: managing the pandemic in 2021

As the global pandemic stretches into 2021, it is one that has had a markedly different impact for our four research countries. But we are seeing that this could potentially reverse 20 years of progress when it comes to combating existing inequalities. Next week, Young Lives will publish the final round of findings from our Phone Survey calls into COVID-19’s impact on young people in India, Peru, Vietnam and Ethiopia. Before this our Country Directors offer an update on the pandemic’s impact and the long-term response from their respective governments.

The state of COVID-19 in our Research Countries

India

The country with the second highest number of cases with over 10.8 million, India now has 155,195 associated deaths. But there is a significantly lower total cases per million, 7,814, then other countries with similarly high case totals.

Peru

Peru continues to grapple with an extensive COVID-19 pandemic, with over 42,000 deaths, with a death rate of 1.277 per million people, an increase since our last blog in November.

Vietnam

Having maintained a place in the global response as a successful model for how to combat COVID-19, Vietnam has seen an uptick in cases recently, with 543 active cases. But with 35 deaths, its fatalities per million rate still stands at 0.4 and it is ranked 172nd in the world for cases.

Ethiopia

Ranking 6th in Africa and 71st in the world, the situation in Ethiopia remains better then many of its peers. There have been 142,994 cases and 2,156 deaths (at a rate of 18 per million).

Managing a global pandemic

India

India appears to have successfully flattened its curve, with a drop from nearly 100,000 new cases a day in September 2020, to a current rate of between 9-11,000, a fatality down to 1.4% from 3.4% in the middle of June. India has two locally produced vaccines and was the first country to hit the 5 million COVID-19 vaccination mark. Cinema halls have now been allowed to open at full capacity and secondary schools have reopened across the country.

There exists a major concern with the high levels of unemployed that exists in the country, with three-quarters of employment in India being non-regular (either self-employed or casual work).  Sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction, trade, hotels and restaurants collectively make up nearly 80% of India’s work force and have been particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic and lockdown.

Peru

 

Vietnam

Vietnam has seen the introduction of new measures following the detection of the UK-variant in a patient returning from the United Kingdom. This has included a stricter quarantine policy and schools ordered to shut one ahead of schedule for the Lunar New Year Festival. This has felt particularly vital as new cases have been registered across 12 cities and provinces, since a pair of new community infections were confirmed on January 28th in the provinces of Hai Duong and Quang Ninh.

Testing capacity has been strengthened and extra health facilities are being reinforced in provinces. Major events and festivities for the New Year have been cancelled, whilst local lockdowns and travel restrictions between provinces have been introduced to limit the spread of the infections.

Ethiopia

Whilst ranks 71st in the world and 5th in Africa, it is believed that are high proportion of cases are either being missed through low testing rates (down to roughly 5000 per day), are asymptomatic or aren’t ending in the health care system as people avoid using services unless their symptoms are severe. These factors, along with the significant lag time in Ethiopia’s numbers compared to around the world, increase the fear of a second wave, particularly as the positivity rate has creeped up to over 10 percent.

The Ministry of Health and the Ethiopia Public Health continue to raise awareness of the restrictions in place (notably with protection messages before every single mobile phone call). But fatigue has set in with regards to mask wearing and hand washing, and social distancing not practised in places like markets bus stops and places of worship. Outside of the capital city there is little observation of these practises. Added to this are the relaxation of some of initial relaxations, with an encouragement to go to work whilst taking the necessary precautions. Schools, colleges and universities have gradually begun to resume classes.

Looking ahead

Renu Singh – Country Director, India

‘Even though the country continues to be second-most-affected globally, and ranks 13th among worst-hit nations by active cases, there is global wonderment at how India has managed to dramatically lower the spread of infection and case fatality rates.’

Santiago Cueto – Country Director, Peru

'Quote.'

Alula Pankhurst – Country Director, Ethiopia

‘If the early signs that a second wave may be happening continue to increase, there is a serious risk that the country’s already overstretched health system could be overwhelmed.’

Nguyen Thang, Country Director, Vietnam

‘As the world entered 2021 with unprecedented death tolls and growing infections related to the coronavirus pandemic, Vietnam still emerged among one of the very few countries which were able to maintain a very positive scorecard.’

Headline reports from the Third Call of Young Lives at Work’s Phone Call Survey in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam will be published on 23rd February. Young Lives At Work (YLAW) is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. For more on YLAW, please see our webpage or follow us on Twitter @yloxford, LinkedIn or Facebook.

 

Photo credit: © Young Lives / x. The images throughout our publications are of children living in circumstances and communities similar to the children within our study sample.

 

All COVID-19 figures are accurate as of x and are sourced from here.

COVID-19: poorest young people in developing countries hit by deepening inequalities and falling well-being.

Submitted by remote on Mon, 11/23/2020 - 00:50

News Release: embargoed to 00.01 23rd November. 

Poverty and gender significantly affect how the coronavirus pandemic impacts young people in developing countries, deepening inequalities, and diminishing well-being according to new Oxford-led research, out today. 

News Release. COVID-19: poorest young people in developing countries hit by deepening inequalities and falling well-being.

Submitted by remote on Mon, 11/23/2020 - 00:50

News Release: embargoed to 00.01 23rd November. 

Poverty and gender significantly affect how the coronavirus pandemic impacts young people in developing countries, deepening inequalities, and diminishing well-being according to new Oxford-led research, out today. 

Listening to Young Lives at Work in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh: Second Call

Poverty and shocks
Country report

This brief report provides headline findings from the second of the three calls in Young Lives at Work's COVID-19 Phone Survey in India (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana)

The young people in our study were contacted by phone between August and October to find out about the continuing impact of the pandemic on their health, well-being, economic circumstances, education and work.  

Headlines from the first call are available here. The third call is now underway and the findings will be published in early 2021.  

Additional statistical and summary tables from the second phone survey can be found here