Do countries with female leaders truly fare better with Covid-19?

“What do countries with the best coronavirus responses have in common? Women leaders” Forbes heralded on April 13, about a month after the first lockdown orders hit the US. “Countries led by women have fared better against coronavirus. Why?” The Hill puzzled just five days later.

The idea that female world leaders were outperforming male ones was based on several high-profile anecdotes. By early June, New Zealand, led by 39-year-old prime minister Jacinda Ardern, seemed to have rid its shores of the virus. Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen has been praised by others around the world for her strong response to the crisis, and for the low infection rate in her country. And in Germany, chancellor Angela Merkel’s Covid-19 response has won her high approval ratings.

But most of these reports don’t reference any data to support their narrative. A recently released study (pdf) finally tests the idea that women heads of state have excelled at handling the crisis. The research, conducted by two economists at UK universities, suggests this phenomenon is more than just anecdote.

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