On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 an epidemic. Underlining the seriousness of the situation, most countries have closed their schools for months to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and prevent hospital congestion. Two years later, students and teachers are returning to private education with some apprehension about the spread of the coronavirus form.
Educators, policymakers, parents and students are concerned about the impact of school closures on education and socialization. David Malpas, president of the World Bank Group, said that “the epidemic has caused the greatest loss of human capital in living memory and the worst education crisis in a century.” Unfortunately, this huge loss of human capital could transform into a major labor market in the future.
The unseen nature of the loss of education
In many ways, the impact of the labor market will disappear. None of the students currently affected will see their pests in the future and will see an epidemic tax cut. No national income account will reflect the size of the loss, although it will accumulate quietly over time. Yet the loss will not be less real for the unseen. French economist, politician and journalist Friedrich Bastiat believed that it was one’s social responsibility to point out the unseen damage in public policy debates.
It is not easy to meet our social responsibility by measuring the future unseen effects of epidemic-related school closures. Some of the major measurement difficulties come from the time lag between the impact of learning and their consequences — a problem that Alfred Marshall identified long before 1890. The outcome of education decisions today, whether taken by policy makers or families, is precisely by their nature. Only measurable after a long time, at which time very little can often be done to correct past mistakes. In other words, one must either be very patient or have an intelligent research design to measure the impact.
Estimating the cost of school disruption: top down and bottom up
Researchers often use models with a small number of variables to measure the potential impact of COVID-19-related school closures on people’s future incomes. This top-down method is usually based on estimates of average school drop-out years due to epidemics, estimated school returns, and other parameters, such as informed estimates about the mitigation effect of distance schooling. The method reduces a complex world to rather general aggregate models. But the complex features are often unknown, which makes the top-down method the best possible alternative to mimic the future effects of a push (two examples of studies using this method: one; two).
The main problem with the top-down approach is that it ignores the effects of the bottom-up response: the mitigation factors that parents and students take when school closes. Even under normal circumstances, families play a major role in educating children. But in extreme cases, such as epidemics, the importance of the family system increases. For example, counseling for family members, personal tutoring, and extracurricular online courses may have played a significant role, albeit an unknown, mitigation role during the epidemic.
A bottom-up estimate of the cost of disrupting schooling
A new World Bank paper has used an episode of school closures in the past to estimate the long-term effects of the current epidemic on affected students working in Kuwait’s civil service during the Gulf War in Kuwait (when Iraq invaded Kuwait). , The main employment choice for Kuwaiti citizens. Closing schools due to the Gulf War is analytically effective because it happened about 30 years ago, so the effects of all bottom-up feedback on labor market outcomes are already exhausted. This past closure has a lot in common with the current epidemic-related school disruption, which allows us to estimate the salaries lost due to the shock of epidemic-related education.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait and started the Gulf War, the school was closed for the 1990/91 school year. As a result, many Kuwaiti students have lost access to formal schools and only a few students who have emigrated can continue their education abroad. The following school year, when schools reopened, was used to restore damaged school infrastructure and to accelerate schooling to allow students to be apprehended. Nonetheless, the disruption has resulted in lower-than-average school attendance. Decreased earnings have turned into long-term wage losses for Kuwaiti students.
The study estimates that boys in primary school may face a salary loss of more than $ 2,600 per year during epidemic-related school closures, and girls may lose more than 500 1,500 per year (Figure 1). In their careers, the average current value of a lifetime income loss could be more than $ 40,000 for boys and about $ 21,000 for girls. These are big losses. In this context, the monthly salary of the civil service in 2019 means an average annual salary of $ 62,000 for Kuwaiti men and $ 47,000 for Kuwaiti women.
Unfortunately, the results are both reassuring and annoying. They are reassuring because the estimated income loss levels are consistent with the top-down study. Ironically, however, the predicted losses could be large and long-lasting, putting tremendous pressure on policymakers who are struggling to contain the virus and grow their economies.