Falling further behind: The cost of COVID-19 school closures by gender and wealth

Case Studies & Research
22 p.

School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic led to losses equivalent to over half a year’s worth of learning. This foregone learning will hamper students’ productivity and ability to earn income in the future. Children from low-income households have less access to quality remote education, more exposure to economic hardship during COVID-19, and a greater tendency to drop out of school in response to the pandemic. Because of this, learning losses for students from the poorest quintile are 33% more than those for students from the richest quintile. These will translate into losses in expected earnings that are 47% more for the poorest students, exacerbating income inequalities. Estimated gender gaps in foregone learning are small but translate into earning losses that are 28% higher for girls than for boys because of the higher return on girls’ education. While supply-side improvements in the quality of remote education reduce aggregate losses from school closures, inequality will grow if improvements largely benefit those who have more access to educational resources. Investments are necessary to ensure improvements benefit all students, including poor children and girls.