New OECD Analysis By Hoover Institution Fellows: Affected Students See At Least 3% Lower Career Earnings Because Of COVID School Closings

Thursday, September 10, 2020
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Image credit: 
Ryan McVay, Photodisc

Hoover Institution (Stanford, CA) – Eric A. Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow in Education and Distinguished Visiting Fellow Ludger Woessmann at Stanford’s Hoover Institution released an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)  analysis on The Economic Impacts of Learning Losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This groundbreaking OECD analysis was presented at the G20 Education Ministers virtual meeting on September 5, 2020.  While not addressing when or how schools re-open, it points to the long-run harm to students and to the nation of the accumulating learning losses. 

“The closures will reduce the typical student’s lifetime income by 3% or more, with the largest impacts on disadvantaged and minority students,” said Eric A. Hanushek. 

Their analysis employs research about how student learning affects future incomes and future national economic growth to estimate the economic costs that have already occurred.  While the ultimate magnitude of COVID-19 on learning losses is as yet unknown, their estimates of losses that have already accrued paint an alarming picture. 

“Just returning schools to their 2019 levels will leave students around the world significantly worse off in the long run,” said Ludger Woessmann

For the nation, the lower long-term growth related to such losses might yield an average of 1.5% lower annual GDP for the remainder of the century. The present value of losses for the U.S. over the remainder of the century will exceed $14 trillion.  These economic losses would grow if schools are unable to re-start quickly.  The learning losses will be more deeply felt by disadvantaged students and existing achievement gaps would grow wider, leading to worsening economic gaps. 

The study indicates not only how important it is for students to return to school as soon as possible, but that performance levels must exceed what they were in 2019 before the virus hit if these losses are to be addressed. As schools begin to reopen even as the pandemic continues, it is natural to focus on the logistics of operating safely. However, the long-term impacts also require serious attention because the losses already suffered demand more than the best of currently considered re-opening approaches. Permanent learning losses are not inevitable if the country significantly improves the learning gains of its students in the future, something that might be possible with effective re-opening strategies.  

To read the full analysis at the OECD’s website go here