Costs of Past and Future Learning Losses

Eric A. Hanushek
Ludger Woessmann
Published Date
Education Next
The worldwide school closures in early 2020 led to losses in learning that will not easily be made up for even if schools quickly return to their prior performance levels. While the precise learning losses are not yet known, existing research suggests that the students in grades 1-12 affected by the closures might expect some 3 percent lower income over their entire lifetimes. These learning losses will have lasting economic impacts both on the affected students and on each nation unless they are effectively remediated. For nations, the lower long-term growth related to such losses might yield an average of 1.5 percent lower annual GDP for the remainder of the century. For the United States, the already accrued learning losses are expected to amount to $14.2 trillion in current dollars (present value). These economic losses would grow if schools are unable to restart quickly.