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Unequal Opportunity Spreaders: Higher COVID-19 Deaths with Later School Closure in the U.S.

Mixed evidence on the relationship between school closure and COVID-19 prevalence could reflect focus on large-scale levels of geography, limited ability to address endogeneity, and demographic variation. Using county-level CDC COVID-19 data through June 15, 2020, two matching strategies address potential heterogeneity: nearest geographic neighbor and propensity scores. Within nearest neighboring pairs in different states with different school closure timing, each additional day from a county’s first case until state-ordered school closure is related to 1.5%-2.4% higher cumulative COVID-19 deaths per capita (1,227-1,972 deaths for a county with median population and deaths/capita). Results are consistent using propensity score matching, COVID-19 data from two alternative sources, and additional sensitivity analyses. School closure is more strongly related to COVID-19 deaths in counties with a high concentration of Black or poor residents, suggesting schools play an unequal role in transmission and earlier school closure is related to fewer lives lost in disadvantaged counties.

Keywords
COVID-19; school closure; health; race; poverty
Education level
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
10.26300/t0y0-a041

This EdWorkingPaper is published in:

Rauscher, E., & Burns, A. (2021). Unequal Opportunity Spreaders: Higher COVID-19 Deaths with Later School Closure in the U.S.. Sociological Perspectives. https://doi.org/10.1177/07311214211005486

EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Rauscher, Emily, and Ailish Burns. (). Unequal Opportunity Spreaders: Higher COVID-19 Deaths with Later School Closure in the U.S.. (EdWorkingPaper: 21-377). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://doi.org/10.26300/t0y0-a041

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