Study finds that younger children are hurt more by school closures than are older children

There has been a lot of evidence showing that school closures are detrimental to children. That is they negatively affect children’s social development as well as learning capabilities and overall wellbeing. And they also affect children’s skill development capacity which affects their future earnings.

A recent NBER working paper has provided more evidence cementing the negative effects on welfare that school closures have. The paper has furthermore provided more evidence on how school closures affect children at different ages and “coming from households with different parental characteristics”.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. We find that parental reactions reduce the negative impact of the school closures, but do not fully offset it. The negative impact of the crisis on children’s welfare is especially severe for those with parents with low educational attainment and low assets. The school closures themselves are primarily responsible for the negative impact of the Covid-19 shock on the long-run welfare of the children, with the pandemic-induced income shock to parents playing a secondary role.

By assuming that school closures will lead to an increase in the number of children without a high school diploma, and a decrease in the share of children with a college degree, the study records that

On average, the earnings losses induced by reduced human capital accumulation and lower educational attainment amount to about −1%. These effects materialize despite a significant endogenous adjustment of parental investments into their children: time inputs rise by 4.29% and monetary inputs by 4.99%. Measured as consumption-equivalent variation, the average welfare loss of children from the (deep but highly temporary) Covid schooling and parental income shock amounts to −0.75%, with 87% of losses being directly attributed to the school closures, and the rest being accounted for by the economic recessions for the children’s parents.

Why the different outcomes

According to the paper, when it comes to age, the adverse impact is most pronounced for younger children (between the ages of 6 and 10). This is because even though parents increase their investment into kids at this age group, this does not fully offset the loss in learning due to public school closures. Therefore, this group of children arrives at older ages with less human capital which reduces the productivity of any future private investments. Parents respond to this reduction in productivity by reducing their investment in children at older ages, which leads children to have to lower human capital, and also makes them less likely to complete high school or attend colleges, leading to lower wages, and subsequently lower welfare. Older children, on the other hand, have already accumulated most of their human capital at the time of the crisis and, therefore, do not suffer a significant reduction in their future productivity of investments in human capital.

And when it comes to parents’ characteristics, children with poorer parents suffer more. This is mainly due to the fact that children from lower-income households suffer more from school closures since they are more likely to attend government schools. And additionally, rich parents increase investment into their children by more than poor parents after school closures since they have more financial resources to do so.


During the duration of the coronavirus, the decision to close schools and have them stay closed has been treated as one with only benefits and no costs. However, a lot of research has shown this is not true. School closures bring tremendous costs to children as well as to society. This is just one of the latest pieces of evidence to prove that.