The impact of school closure on test scores

The great* Emily Oster tweeted yesterday that they got their article on the impact of school closures accepted in the American Economic Review: Insights. Their paper shows that, during 2021, students in districts with more in-person classes performed better in standardised tests. This is a result that should surprise no one but maybe it does: closing schools is bad for students’ learning.

Importantly, the effect is not homogeneous. As shown in their Figure 1 (below), the drop in test scores was higher in districts with a higher share of black students. When they estimate the impact of more in-person teaching, they show that the effect is higher when the areas have a higher share of black students. In other words, the benefits (in terms of test scores) of more in-person teaching are stronger in those areas. Again, it is not entirely surprising; it is more surprising to find that those more opposed to re-opening schools in the US have also been those that claim to care more about ethnic minorities.

Figure taken from Jack et al. (2022)

Cool paper, clear and concise. I really hope more and more people submit to AER: Insights, because we need part of economic research to be in the form of very good shorter (and much quicker!) articles.

(*) Great because she is a top researcher (I use the Oster (2019) test in all of my papers), because she has written several books on parenting and family management, and because she is not afraid to discuss controversial issues such as the ones in this paper.

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