Publication Date: December 2020
What are the eﬀects of school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic on children’s education? Online education is an imperfect substitute for in-person learning, particularly for children from low-income families. Peer eﬀects also change: schools allow children from diﬀerent socio-economic backgrounds to mix together, and this eﬀect is lost when schools are closed. Another factor is the response of parents, some of whom compensate for the changed environment through their own eﬀorts, while others are unable to do so. We examine the interaction of these factors with the aid of a structural model of skill formation. We ﬁnd that school closures have a large and persistent eﬀect on educational outcomes that is highly unequal. High school students from poor neighborhoods suﬀer a learning loss of 0.4 standard deviations, whereas children from rich neighborhoods remain unscathed. The channels operating through schools, peers, and parents all contribute to growing educational inequality during the pandemic.