Weekly Review: Schools, Students, and COVID-19 – May 17, 2021

Weekly Review: Schools, Students, and COVID-19 – May 17, 2021

More evidence is emerging on the role of in-person K-12 schooling in COVID-19 community spread. While it is important to interpret these findings in conjunction with other studies on the contribution of schooling mode to COVID-19 health metrics in and around schools, it is also worth noting that the context has changed substantially since the period under study in the existing evidence.

In-Person Schooling and COVID-19 Spread

In one study, released in April as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, the authors explore the effect of weekly visits to schools on COVID-19 diagnoses in households with school-age children as compared to households with no school-age children. Weekly visits to schools are measured using Safegraph mobile phone tracking data, so in contrast to prior work that relied on policy variation in school reopening, this study uses data on actual mobility. The researchers find that more in-person visits to schools in a county in a given week correspond to more COVID-19 cases in households with children than in households without children, but the differences are small. The relationship is stronger in poorer counties, in counties with higher levels of circulating COVID-19, and later in the progression of the pandemic (or their timeframe of analysis, which is the first 46 weeks of 2020).

Another recently released NBER working paper uses data from Texas to assess the role of school reopenings in COVID-19 spread. The authors collected school start dates and instructional modes for all Texas school districts and match that data to county-level data on COVID-19 cases and deaths. They find that school reopenings did contribute to community spread in a gradual, but substantial way. The researchers also use Safegraph mobility data to confirm that in-person schooling corresponds to other more mobile behaviors among adults, such as work outside the home and other outside-of-home activities. As Texas reopenings occurred in the context of high community spread without provisions for reduced capacity, this work is consistent with other evidence suggesting that in-person schooling facilitates COVID-19 spread when existing disease prevalence is high and in the absence of mitigation measures.

|2021-05-17T09:46:16-04:00May 17th, 2021|COVID-19 Literature|0 Comments

About the Author: Chloe Gibbs

Chloe Gibbs
Chloe Gibbs, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame where she is also a faculty affiliate of the Institute for Educational Initiatives, the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families, and the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities. Professor Gibbs studies the effectiveness of policies and programs outside of the regular school day and year and beyond the traditional classroom to understand how different investments affect children's educational trajectories. Some of her recent projects investigate the impact of Head Start, parenting interventions, virtual summer school in the middle grades, and comprehensive supports for high school students at-risk of dropping out. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and cited by the President's Council of Economic Advisers.

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