Lights out? COVID-19 containment policies and economic activity

by Preetha Joseph

We are delighted to invite you to the first Consumer Pyramids Research Seminar on 20 November 2020 at 6.00 PM IST.

Professor Tarun Jain of IIM Ahmedabad will present on Lights out? COVID-19 containment policies and economic activity. The paper is jointly written with Dr. Sonalika Sinha of the Reserve Bank of India and Dr. Carl C M Beyer of The Office of the Chief Economist in the South Asia Region, World Bank. Their paper will be discussed by Dr. Prachi Mishra of the International Monetary Fund Research Department.

You can sign up for the webinar here.


This paper estimates the impact of a differential relaxation of COVID-19 containment policies on aggregate economic activity in India. Following a uniform national lockdown, the Government of India classified all districts into three zones with varying containment measures in May 2020.

Using a differences-in- differences approach, we estimate the impact of these restrictions on nighttime light intensity, a standard high-frequency proxy for economic activity. To conduct this analysis, we combine pandemic-era district-level data from a range of novel sources monthly nighttime lights from global satellites, mobility data from individual smartphone locations from Facebook, and high frequency household-level survey data on income and consumption from CMIE’s Consumer Pyramidsdx. These are supplemented with data from the Indian census and the Reserve Bank of India.

We find that nighttime light intensity in May was 12.4% lower for districts with the most severe restrictions and 1.7% lower for districts with intermediate restrictions, as compared to districts with the least restrictions. The differences were largest in May, when the different policies were in place, and slowly tapered off in June and July. Restricted mobility as well as lower household income and consumption are plausible channels for these results. Stricter containment measures had larger impacts in more developed districts characterized by a greater population density with older residents, as well as more services employment and bank credit.


- 6.00 to 7.00 PM: Paper presentation by Professor Tarun Jain

- 7.00 to 7.30 PM: Discussion by Dr. Prachi Mishra followed by moderated Q&A

About the Consumer Pyramids Research Seminar Series

The Consumer Pyramids Research Seminar Series features work based on the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey. It is a platform for researchers to receive critical and technical feedback from accomplished peers. It is also meant to engage with the larger research community who may gain from technical discussions.

The Consumer Pyramids Household Survey is India’s largest regular household survey and the world’s largest household panel survey. CPHS has collected data on over 232,000 households and 1.19 million individuals surveyed since 2014. The survey collects information on household demographics, individual identities, employment, health status, financial inclusion, individual and household incomes, consumption expenditures, ownership of assets and intentions to buy them, household amenities and consumer sentiments. Income and expenses data are a monthly time-series since January 2014.

Record-level data from all 20 Waves of CPHS is available through a subscription service. Data from the May-Aug 2020 Wave of CPHS has already been released to subscribers. Please visit our website to learn more about CPHS and how to gain access to the record-level data.

If you have written a paper using CPHS and would like to present in the Seminar Series, please write to Kaushik Krishnan at

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