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Policy Research Working Paper Series publication roundup for the weeks of March 1 and 8

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This blog is a biweekly feature highlighting recent working papers from around the World Bank Group that were published in the World Bank’s Policy Research Working Paper Series. This entry introduces eight papers published during the weeks of March 1 and 8 on various topics, including women’s empowerment, “Vaccine Club”, and digital transformation. Here are the highlights of select findings. 

To mark International Women’s Day  last week, we first introduce three papers on violence against women, gender gaps in urban transportation, and a women’s empowerment program. Violence against women is considerably underreported. However, as seen in the #MeToo movement, a rise in public activism can motivate women to disclose their own experiences of violence. The Silenced Women by Abhilasha Sahay examines changes in reporting of violence against women in India before and after the 2012 Delhi bus rape incident and subsequent widespread protests. A second paper, Closing the Gap by Alam and coauthors, investigates differences in mobility patterns between men and women in Mumbai, India. In general, women’s travel patterns are different from those of men, due to the lack of safe forms of transportation for women. A third paper, Pathways out of Extreme Poverty by Bossuroy and coauthors, conducted a randomized evaluation to examine the impact of a multifaceted social protection program for women delivered by the Government of Niger.

  • The Silenced Women: Author finds a 24% increase in reported violence against women after the 2012 incident. Specifically, reports of rape, kidnapping of women and girls, sexual assault and cruelty by husband or his relatives have significantly increased. By contrast, the number of reported gender-neutral crimes are not changed, suggesting that the increase in records of violence against women can be attributed to a rise in reporting, rather than an increase in occurrence. Figure 1 also illustrates that the effect was not just a one-time spike in 2013; it continued in subsequent years.

Figure 1: Reporting of Violence Against Women—before and after the 2012 Delhi incident

Figure 1 Reporting of Violence Against Women?before and after the 2012 Delhi incident

Source: Sahay 2020.
Note: Y-axis is the coefficients from the event-study specification. 

  • Closing the Gap: Results demonstrate significant differences between the mobility patterns of men and women. Women in Mumbai are more likely to walk, travel by public transit, and take auto-rickshaws than men, whereas men use more two-wheelers and cars. This suggests that women use slower and lower-quality modes of transport than men do and/or pay a higher price than men to reach similar destinations. Authors also examine whether limited mobility affects women’s access to jobs. 

  • Pathways out of Extreme Poverty: The intervention has increased participation in and profits from women-led off-farm business and livestock activities. It also shows a significant impact on women’s empowerment – their engagement in the community, their collective action and their control over their own economic activities. The paper further offered a cost-benefit assessment across different arms of interventions.

Next, we highlight two papers related to COVID-19. While the COVID-19 vaccination efforts have been in progress around the world, reported production delays in some vaccine producers have heightened worries over a sudden block of vaccine exports by producing countries. The first paper, The Covid-19 Vaccine Production Club by Evenett and coauthors, sheds lights on the small number of nations that account for the lion’s share of the production and cross-border supplies of both COVID-19 vaccines and the ingredients to manufacture vaccines. The second  paper, Evolving Socioeconomic Impacts by Furbush and coauthors, tracks the monthly changes of socioeconomic status of households in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda from April 2020 through September 2020.

  • The Covid-19 Vaccine Production Club: By analyzing multiple sources of trade data and firm-level data, authors demonstrate the clear divide between producers and non-producers. Figure 2 illustrates the interdependence of vaccine producers, who sourced 88.3% of key ingredients from other vaccine producers. This situation could potentially cause export bans to non-producers in case of significant shortages of COVID-19 vaccines.

Figure 2: Top-5 sources of key COVID-19 vaccine ingredients by vaccine producers 

Top-5 sources of key COVID-19 vaccine ingredients by vaccine producers


  • Evolving Socioeconomic Impacts: In all four countries, the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity among adults gradually declined over time. On the other hand, lack of educational engagement has been widespread. In Ethiopia, only 20% of school-aged children were engaged in any sort of learning activity immediately after school closures. This number increased through June but then, following the Hachalu Hundessa riots, began to fall. Authors also assess behavior and perceptions related to COVID-19, losses in income and business revenues, and coping strategies against these shocks.

Finally, we feature three papers analyzing digital transformation. COVID-19 has underscored the issue of the digital divide. Mobile Internet Adoption in West Africa by Rodríguez-Castelán and coauthors investigates the drivers and constraints of mobile broadband adoption in West Africa—a region at the bottom of the global ranking on internet penetration. Policy Choices Can Help Keep 4G and 5G Universal Broadband Affordable by Oughton and coauthors estimates the cost of reaching the UN target of universal access to broadband in the developing world and assesses a range of possible policy options to accelerate universal broadband coverage. Liberalization, Technology Adoption, and Stock Returns: Evidence from Telecom by Arezki and coauthors investigates the pace of technology adoption in telecom technology, as deployment of 5G telecommunications has been accelerated around the globe. It explores the institutional and policy frameworks that boost technology adoption in telecom.

  • Mobile Internet Adoption in West Africa: Authors find that low household consumption and high price of mobile services are two key constraints on mobile broadband adoption in West Africa. Demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, as well as other variables linked with policy, such as access to electricity and other internet access modalities, also matter in internet adoption.

  • Policy Choices Can Help Keep 4G and 5G Universal Broadband Affordable: The overall cost of meeting the UN Broadband Commission target of universal broadband access is estimated at $1.6 trillion using 4G and $1.7 trillion using 5G NSA over the next decade. The scenario simulation also suggests that 5G NSA could be the lowest cost technology choice for some countries where 4G networks remain incomplete.

  • Liberalization, Technology Adoption, and Stock Returns: Evidence from Telecom: Authors construct a novel indicator based on the country ranking of the speed in technology adoption from 1G through 5G. The indicator shows that very few countries (except the US) have achieved a sustained pace of adoption in telecom technology standards over time. Regression results highlight the importance of complementarity between liberalization and the independence of the telecom regulatory authority to boost technology adoption in telecom.

The following are other interesting papers published during the past few weeks. Please check out these articles as well!


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