Female Fatality From COVID-19: A Macroeconomic Perspective

Dr. Ali Fakih co-authors a research paper investigating the role of institutional factors in the discrepancy between COVID-19 fatality rates for men and women.

By Dana K. Haffar

The study provides new insights into the variation in COVID-19 fatality rates between genders and valuable policy recommendations based on the results.

The highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 virus placed everyone of all ages and genders at risk of infection to different degrees of severity. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, however, data has shown that men who contracted the disease had a lesser chance of survival than women. The reasons behind this disparity have been debated by many scholars.

An empirical study, co-authored by Dr. Ali Fakih, chair of the Department of Economics at the Adnan Kassar School of Business, now provides new insights into the variation in COVID-19 fatality rates between genders and valuable policy recommendations based on the results.

The Fatality Rate of COVID-19: How Does Education, Health Infrastructure and Institutional Quality Make a Change? recently published in The Journal of Applied Economic Research, explores whether socioeconomic factors, including income, age, education, health infrastructure, and institutions, can help explain the fatality rates for women from COVID-19.

By examining variables other than biological genetic factors – on which previous studies were conducted – the paper, to the researchers’ knowledge, “is the first to investigate how institutional quality, which encompasses law, individual rights, government regulation, and high-quality service, affects female fatality rates, especially at the macroeconomic level,” said Dr. Fakih.

“It is also the first to address this topic using data from 57 different countries, and as well as controlling for institutional factors, considers other key variables that affect these mortality rates,” he added.

For the purpose of the study, the authors obtained the female fatality rates due to COVID-19 from Global Health 50/50 and extracted the female Human Capital Index and the percentage of the female population age structure from the World Bank and World Development Indicators. Institutional quality and health infrastructure data were collected from the World Economic Forum and Executive Opinion Surveys.

The findings revealed that an increase of 1 percent in GDP negatively impacted the mortality rate from COVID-19 in women, raising it from 0.127 percent to 0.139 percent. As stated in the study, this may be explained by the fact that residents in wealthier areas, unlike poorer populations in Sub-Saharan regions, are more susceptible to diseases and contracting immunodeficiency viruses.

Similarly, for every 1 percent increase in female education, female mortality rises by approximately 0.784 percent to 1.196 percent. One possible explanation is that females, emboldened by studies that have highlighted their immunological edge over men, may have started taking fewer precautions.

On the other hand, a 1 percent increase in health infrastructure helps control the mortality rate by 0.572 percent to 0.839 percent, and a 1 percent increase in the female population between the ages of 40 and 59 reduces that rate by nearly 0.633 percent to 0.908 percent.

Even though institutional quality does not directly impact the mortality rate from COVID-19 among women, it can improve health quality, thereby reducing the mortality rate. Put simply, a better quality institution will effectively enhance the quality of health and reduce fatalities.

Based on the findings, the recommendations that the study makes to policymakers are to create and maintain high-quality institutions to enable self-governance and promote women’s education through fiscal incentives or scholarships.

By doing so, they would be indirectly enhancing the healthcare infrastructure, reducing female mortality, and in the long run, bridging the gap between the genders in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

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