School closures due to COVID-19 have left over a billion students out of school. Governments are pursuing a variety of approaches to mitigate school closures. At the same time, all countries are undergoing the largest economic contractions of our lifetime, reducing public budgets and household incomes. What effect might this perfect storm have on schooling attainment and learning? The potential impacts are wide-ranging. Disruptions to schooling and the resulting learning losses—from shocks to schooling and incomes, from unequal access to remedial measures such as distance learning, and from subsequent inequalities once students return to school—could be large. This session presents two approaches to understand these processes and model their potential magnitude.
Jishnu Das (Professor, Georgetown University) will present a recent paper of his and co-authors that studies the long-term effects of a devastating earthquake that occurred in Northern Pakistan in 2005. Children in their critical first thousand days at the time of the earthquake accumulated large height deficits, with the youngest the most affected. Children aged 3 through 15 at the time of the earthquake did not suffer growth shortfalls, but scored significantly worse on academic tests if they lived close to the fault line. The authors argue that even when disasters are heavily compensated, human capital accumulation can be critically interrupted, with greater losses for already disadvantaged populations.
João Pedro Azevedo (Lead Economist, World Bank) will present a recent report of his and co-authors that presents the results of simulations considering different lengths of school closure (3, 5, and 7 months) and different levels of mitigation effectiveness (mostly remote learning), resulting in an optimistic, intermediate, and pessimistic global scenario. In the intermediate scenario, COVID-19 could result in a loss of 0.6 years of schooling adjusted for quality, bringing down the effective years of basic schooling that children achieve during their schooling life from 7.9 years to 7.3 years. Put another way, in the absence of effective policy action, each student from today’s cohort in primary and secondary school could face, on average, a reduction of $872 in yearly earnings. This is approximately equivalent to $16,000 over a student’s work life at present value, or approximately $10 trillion of lifecycle earnings at the global level.