The short-term economic and well-being costs of COVID-19 have been severe. Though we hope the pandemic will be a temporary shock, in the interim it has pushed many vulnerable households living at the margins back into poverty. Due to lockdowns and social distancing measures, people have lost jobs and livelihoods, leaving them unable to pay for housing and food. Schools have been closed and some children may not return, shutting off one of the main pathways out of poverty for low-income children. Women and girls have been especially impacted by these school closures. Mothers at all socio-economic levels have dropped out of the labor force to supervise online learning and care for children and older relatives, and many will not reenter. Even before the pandemic, women and girls of reproductive age were overrepresented among the poor, making these setbacks all the more concerning.

We likely will not know the full impacts of COVID-19 on poverty for a few years, as most poverty data comes from household surveys, which have been difficult to carry out during the last year. However, we do know that economic growth is the largest driver of poverty reduction. Conversely, economic recessions drive a rise in poverty, other things being equal. In 2020, however, other things were not equal.

Read the full article about extreme poverty by Homi Kharas and Meagan Dooley at Brookings.