IndiaSpend ResearchWire - July 23


In this edition, we discuss vaccine inequity, new estimates of India’s Covid-19 death toll, the perils of online shopping, and the huge pay gap between men and women cricketers.

If you have missed any of our earlier editions, you can read them here.

The real embarrassment of riches

Shameful inequalities continue unabated in global procurement and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. A good piece here on what has led to this. 

Export restrictions, underfunded poor country governments, intellectual property rights, and a cutthroat race by rich countries have all meant that while only a tiny proportion of the most vulnerable in poor countries have received a vaccine dose, the rich continue to vaccinate younger and younger citizens, promising booster shots and eventually turning their citizens into Iron Man or something.

Lots of alarming vaccine inequity statistics here. Sub Saharan Africa hosts 15% of the global population but has only 1% of its vaccines

North America’s share in the world’s vaccines is more than twice its share global population. 

Not that this is set to change any time soon. Canada has procured more than 10 doses for every resident even as Sierra Leone’s vaccination rate barely went over 1% last month.  

“It’s like a famine in which “the richest guys grab the baker.”

So, what does this mean? As the Delta variant soars across the world, deaths soar too—but mainly in poor countries

What makes it particularly egregious is that developing country citizens really want the vaccines, much more than those of rich countries. Drawing on phone surveys of more than 44,000 people in the United States, Russia, and 10 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) across Asia, Africa, and South America, researchers find that the willingness to vaccinate is considerably higher in LMICs (80%) than in the United States (65%) and Russia (30%). A policy brief on the study is here.

Finally, if you still have time for first-world anti-vaxxers and want to understand why they do what they do, a good behavioural insights assessment is here with some cool graphics.

It’s raining estimates

The government of India says 419,470 people died from Covid-19 in India, the last I checked. But as many have pointed out earlier, our official Covid death numbers need some work. A new working paper by Abhishek Anand, Justin Sandefur, and Arvind Subramanian shows you just how much that may be the case. 

The paper uses three different sources to provide three new estimates of all-cause excess mortality for India during both the Covid pandemic waves and comes up with some startling numbers:

  1. Extrapolating state-level civil registration: 3.4 million excess deaths. 

  2. Applying international estimates of age-specific infection fatality rates to Indian seroprevalence data: 4 million excess deaths

  3. Analysing India’s Consumer Pyramid Household Survey that records whether any member of the family had died in the past four months: 4.9 million excess deaths. 

The authors are clear that all these approaches carry their own limitations and that “estimating COVID-deaths with statistical confidence may prove elusive”. But all estimates suggest that India’s death toll from the pandemic is likely to be a very large multiple of its official count. 

You can read the paper here, and a news piece covering it here. There is also a three-minute audio and a Twitter thread if you’re so inclined.

Damn you, Amazon

I feel personally attacked by this brilliant Tim Harford piece on the dangers of spending cashlessly. Given the ease of online spending with its pre-filled forms, saved addresses, easy-to-use apps, tailored product recommendations, auto-filled card details, and one-click buys, how consciously are you buying when you buy something online?

“Between outright fraud and honest commerce there may be a sharp legal line—but economically and psychologically the distinction is a gradual blur. I worry that we now live in that blur, spending cash without clearly perceiving what happened.”

“.. not only are we paying for all this, we’re paying without a clear idea of when or how much the payments are, or even the method of payment we are using.”

Read it and save yourself while there’s still time. It’s too late for me.

Are you a cricket fan or just a Kohli fan?

Ask yourself this question when you read this report by the Bengaluru-based Sports Law and Policy Centre on the state of women’s cricket in India. Based on a survey of 350 domestic women cricketers, the report presents descriptive statistics and insights on the physical, financial, and social barriers faced by women players, the systemic changes needed to prop up the sport, women’s IPL, and the pay gap between men and women players . 

The section on the pay issue is my favourite part—read that if you read nothing else. 

In 2018, even the lowest paid male cricketer earned twice what the top woman player earned, and 10 times what her teammates in Grade C earned.

The authors will remind you that the main arguments against equal pay for men and women cricket players—that the women’s team plays less than the men’s team, is less skilled than the men’s, doesn’t sell out stadiums or attract sponsors as much, or even that women players aren’t as big stars—“are all factors of historic under-representation and under-funding for the women’s game.” 

“The burden of getting fans and sponsors and revenue flocking to female sportspersons should not be on the player... but instead on those running and marketing the sport.”

The report is long, but an easy read. You may be tempted to skip large bits if you’re not much of a cricket enthusiast, but open the link and look. I am just thrilled someone is using data to talk about this issue.

The report is part of a wider project called Equal Hue and they also have a website.

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Amee Misra
Contributing Editor, IndiaSpend
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