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‘Children with poorer parents suffer more’: How could school closures affect a student’s future earn

| September 14, 2020

Six months of school closure could result in an average 1% less earned ever year over a worker’s lifetime, according to new projections on COVID-19’s potential shock to a student’s education and future earning power.

That comes to an average $7,800 less, which workers could cumulatively miss out on due to missed schooling, according to estimates from economists at Goethe University Frankfurt and the University of Pennsylvania. That’s based off a 2018 real median personal income of $33,706, discounted with a 4% annual interest rate.

Missed school time could pinch younger kids’ future finances even more, researchers projected. It does not include those parents who may decide to hold their children back a year due to missing out on so much in-person schooling in 2020.

A six-year-old might potentially forgo $10,300 while a ten-year-old could miss out on $6,410 after they join labor market and stay there for approximately 45 years. This is because the effects of learning gaps could compound that much more for kids with longer paths to the job market, the authors said.

The newly-distributed study from the National Bureau of Economic Research comes as school systems start a year resembling none other.

Across the country, schools physically closed in March to slow the spread of coronavirus. As schools swung to remote learning, the physical closures may have saved the lives of more than 40,000 people, other researchers estimated in a July study published by JAMA.

The new study acknowledges it is only looking into one potential cost of school closure and not weighing any potential public-health benefits.

“School and child-care closures should be considered as potentially very costly measures to avoid the spread of [COVID-19]. However, we want to clearly acknowledge that we have not modelled the potential health benefits of these closures as this would require an explicit model that links disease transmission to school activity,” the authors said.

Proponents of virtual learning say a remote model is what’s still needed to fight the virus’ spread. The United States had 6.3 million cases as of Wednesday and 189,680 deaths, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there are 27,590,978 confirmed reports of coronavirus.

Many urban districts for now are sticking with remote learning — to avoid a return to densely-packed schools — while many less-populated rural district are returning to in-person instruction, according to one survey. Schools in suburban areas are roughly split between in-person instruction, virtual classrooms and a blend of the two.