Where Children Lost the Most School Days as New York Reopens

The global pandemic has now locked out children from classrooms for as much as a year in some countries, a loss of learning that will store up long-term economic damage.

For kids in New York City, that estrangement will come to an end on Monday with the reopening of high schools, potentially drawing a line on a gap in their education that they might still never recover. Others elsewhere in the world will just have to keep waiting, building up an even greater study deficit.

Where Children Lost the Most School Days as New York Reopens

Children in the U.S., Mexico and India are among those who have been shut out of facilities longest, while those in France and Switzerland suffered only a few weeks of distance learning before returning to classrooms, according to the latest data from Unesco, which has been monitoring the disruption to education.

The move online in some countries might only have mitigated some of the damage. A University College London study found that a fifth of U.K. pupils did no schoolwork at home, for example.

The cost to future livelihoods and prosperity caused by the pandemic’s impact on education is troubling governments and policy makers around the world. Among those raising the alarm at the future loss of income today’s children face are German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s panel of economic advisers.

In Italy, parent Maddalena Loy is coordinating a national campaign for resuming in-person education which led to public protests in 20 cities on Sunday.

“A child who stays at home in front of a screen is protected,” but in a way that’s not healthy, she said. “We cannot continue like this.”

Forever Lost

Attempts at tallying the cost make for a sobering read. Last year, the Brookings Institution estimated that four months of lost education would hurt future U.S. earnings by $2.5 trillion -- or 12.7% of the economy’s annual output.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development calculated in September that even a loss equal to a third of a year for pupils affected by closures when the pandemic was declared could curb a country’s gross domestic product by an average of 1.5% over the remainder of the century.

Not only do kids face lower earnings, but less-educated workers are likely to undermine economies’ long-term potential for growth. And children who aren’t able to spend time with peers may also see their social and emotional skills impacted, among other outcomes.

“We have very, very good evidence that reductions in the amount of education that you get, or the quality of education that you get, has lifetime impacts,” said John Friedman, professor of economics and international and public affairs at Brown University. “It affects your chances of being employed, it affects your chances of going to college, it affects your chances of being incarcerated. All sorts of bad stuff becomes more likely.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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