Hoping or Coping? Livelihood Diversification and Household Resilience to the COVID-19 Pandemic

In this paper, we examine the impact of livelihood diversification on household welfare outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We use panel survey data in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda to investigate livelihood diversification as a coping strategy to mitigate the socioeconomic repercussions of COVID-19. We explore heterogeneous income strategies and welfare outcomes for sub-populations such as urban and rural households as well as female- and male-headed households. Findings from our dynamic panel models and ANCOVA specifications do not support the hypothesis that livelihood diversification boosts household resilience to major events like the pandemic. But, in some cases, our results suggest that the opposite is true: household income specialization is associated with more favorable welfare outcomes. When observing heterogeneous impacts, we find some evidence that income diversification may be an effective strategy to enhance resilience for female-headed households. However, our results are not statistically significant nor consistently found across all specifications. We hope these findings encourage researchers to investigate alternative methods to enhancing resilience to calamitous shocks, such as those experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Furbush, Ann

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