Study finds that younger children are hurt more by school closures

There has been a lot of evidence showing that school closures are detrimental to children. School closures negatively affect children’s social development, learning capabilities as well as overall well-being. Additionally, they also affect children’s skill development capacity which affects their future earnings.

Not all children are affected the same, however. According to a recent NBER working paper, younger children are generally more significantly impacted by school closures. The paper, which aims to quantity the long-term consequences on children from a Covid-19 induced loss of schooling, as well as the associated welfare losses, found that,

Due to self-productivity in the human capital production function, skill attainment at a younger stage of the life cycle raises skill attainment at later stages, and thus younger children are hurt more by the school closures than older children.

Similarly, children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are also hurt more by school closures.

The negative impact of the crisis on children’s welfare is especially severe for those with parents with low educational attainment and low assets.

What causes different outcomes?

According to the study, while parents increase investments in their children, this does not fully offset the loss in learning due to public school closures. Younger kids in turn arrive at older ages with less human capital which reduces the productivity of any future private investments.

Parents then further respond to this reduction in productivity by reducing investments in children at older ages. This leads to even lower human capital and makes children less likely to complete high school or attend college. In the long run, this leads to lower wages, and subsequently lower welfare.

Older kids, on the other hand,  are not as significantly impacted since they had mostly already accumulated human capital when school closures were introduced.

Children from lower-income households are more likely to attend government schools than those from high-income households. Moreover,  rich parents increase investments in their children more than poor parents after school closures since they have more financial resources to do so, further leading to significant disparities.


Throughout the pandemic, school closures have been treated as a zero-cost measure. This has been largely proven untrue, however.

School closures have brought tremendous costs to children as well as to society. This is just one of the latest pieces of evidence to prove that.