Covid-19 Research at J-PAL South Asia

J-PAL affiliates are undertaking 14 research projects in South Asia (including new research as well as expanding on existing projects) to understand the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown on the region’s most vulnerable populations.
Temperature gun tests a man wearing a mask for COVID-19 in India
Photo: David Talukdar |

The social science research landscape has transformed and adapted to respond to the most pressing questions pertaining to Covid-19. In the face of this pandemic, J-PAL South Asia has been quick to pivot to meet the shifting demands of research on the ground. Rapid research is being conducted with the goal of testing policy solutions in order to share actionable insights with decision-makers to inform their response to the pandemic and its socioeconomic ramifications.

J-PAL South Asia has  transitioned completely to contactless data collection through Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) and is now exploring the effective use of Computer-Assisted Web Interviewing (CAWI). Operations for these 14 studies, spread across 169 districts in nine Indian states and union territories, are already underway and are supported by a team of 400 enumerators who have been trained remotely. Surveys are being conducted with over 110,000 respondents to understand the various facets of the pandemic affecting vulnerable populations who include diabetics and dialysis patients; migrant workers; school and college dropouts; frontline health workers; farmers; elderly populations; ultra-poor women; and individuals who require psychosocial support.

Figure  1 Distribution of planned and ongoing COVID-19 research projects across states in India*
India map with statewise COVID projects and circle graph break-up of ongoing and planned projects

Research Themes and Partners

In response to the challenges posed by Covid-19, lockdown measures, and to better understand their far-reaching implications for life in the region, research is being conducted along various dimensions, in close coordination with our partners.

vial and germ Covid-19 Symptoms dollar bill and coins Cash Transfers
Healthcare Delivery bar graph with downward arrow Economic Shocks
behavior change icon with two people and chat bubbles Behavior Change Communication Government Relief
Migration and Migrant Conditions bar graph with downward arrow Mental Health and Well-being    
Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices, and Beliefs     Education
Gender-based Violence     Food Security
Figure  2 Collaborating partners*
South Asia COVID research partners


J-PAL South Asia has developed resources to adapt to the changing requirements of data collection, monitoring, and quality control protocols, while working closely with technology and network partners.

Contactless Data Collection

Call-Masking Plug-in for SurveyCTO

To allow for a smooth transition from field to phone surveys while complying with the social distancing norms, J-PAL South Asia collaborated with technology partners to build a call-masking plug-in that enables enumerators to use their own phones while ensuring the privacy of both parties.

  • Access J-PAL South Asia’s plug-in feature for integrating Exotel calls and text messages with a SurveyCTO form here.

*As of July 28, 2020.

This page was last updated on August 18, 2020. For further information, please reach out to Putul Gupta ([email protected]).

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