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The Economic Cost of the Pandemic: State by State

Eric A. Hanushek
Published Date: 
Hoover Education Success Initiative

Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) now show the significant impact of the pandemic on learning. The abstract nature of test score declines, however, often obscures the huge economic impact of these learning losses. NAEP results indicate large differences in learning losses across states, and this analysis provides state-by-state estimates of the economic impacts of the losses. Students on average face 2 to 9 percent lower lifetime income depending on the state in which they attended school. By virtue of the lower-skilled future workforce, the states themselves are estimated to face a gross domestic product (GDP) that is 0.6 to 2.9 percent lower each year for the remainder of the twenty-first century compared to the economic expectations derived from pre-pandemic years. The present value of future losses for states depends directly on the size of each state’s economy. At the extreme, California is estimated to have lost $1.3 trillion because of learning losses during the pandemic. These losses are permanent unless a state’s schools can get better than their pre-pandemic levels.