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Report: 2020 School Shutdowns To Cost Economy Up To $188 Billion Per Year
Rear view of elementary age boy waiting to get on school bus. His classmates are loading the bus in the background.
SDI Productions via Getty Images

A new report reveals that school shutdowns in 2020 may cost the United States economy up to $188 billion per year.

Consulting firm McKinsey & Company states that the decision to close schools due to the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States will severely limit the ability of students — who, on average, lost five months of math education and four months of reading education — to participate in the economy.

As the report explains:

The fallout from the pandemic threatens to depress this generation’s prospects and constrict their opportunities far into adulthood. The ripple effects may undermine their chances of attending college and ultimately finding a fulfilling job that enables them to support a family. Our analysis suggests that, unless steps are taken to address unfinished learning, today’s students may earn $49,000 to $61,000 less over their lifetime owing to the impact of the pandemic on their schooling.

Once the cohort of affected students enters the workforce, American economic performance may diminish by as much as $128 billion to $188 billion every year.

Their report also explains that the shutdowns were particularly harmful to disadvantaged students:

In math, students in majority Black schools ended the year with six months of unfinished learning, students in low-income schools with seven. High schoolers have become more likely to drop out of school, and high school seniors, especially those from low-income families, are less likely to go on to postsecondary education. 

Students in majority-Black schools ended the school year six months behind in both math and reading, while students in majority-white schools ended up just four months behind in math and three months behind in reading.

The report noted an alarming uptick in mental health problems among young people:

McKinsey surveyed more than 16,000 parents across all 50 states. At least 35 percent said they were “very” or “extremely” concerned about their children’s mental health. Nearly 80 percent indicated some level of concern. Meanwhile, parents reported a 6 percent increase in clinical-level anxiety and a 5 percent increase in clinical-level depression among their children. They also reported increased social withdrawal, self-isolation, lethargy, and irrational fear.

For months prior to the comprehensive McKinsey report, various findings of the ominous implications of school shutdowns on economic performance, educational outcomes, and mental health for young people have emerged.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School forecasted that American economic productivity will be reduced by 3.6% over the next three decades as a result of school closures. Funding an extra month of schooling added to the upcoming school year would offer a sixteen-to-one return for the United States economy.

Meanwhile, four in ten public high school students in Baltimore earned a 1.0 GPA during the past school year. Only 21% of students earned above a “B” average.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention likewise revealed that the number of emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts rose by 51% among teenage girls during 2020. Although the number of incidents fell between spring 2019 and spring 2020, the rates drastically increased at the onset of government lockdowns. 

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