Students Could Lose $70,000 Each In Their Lifetimes Thanks To Pandemic Learning Loss

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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Students enrolled during the pandemic could earn up to $70,000 less in income throughout their lifetime compared to peers who graduated before schools were temporarily closed, according to a study by a Stanford University economist.

The study, conducted by Eric A. Hanushek, found that the hiccup in steady education could cause students to earn 5.6% less than they would have before the pandemic as these students are more likely to be less educated and more underprepared for adulthood. This results from time lost in the classroom during the pandemic as schools were forced to close and/or operate online. (RELATED: Schools Struggle With Massive Nationwide Teacher Shortages As Students Head Back To Classrooms)

“Extensive research demonstrates a simple fact: those with higher achievement and greater cognitive skills earn more,” the study reads. “The evidence suggests that the value of higher achievement persists across a student’s entire work life.”

Hanushek cited a sharp decline in eighth-grade national math scores between 2019-2022, during which scores dropped an average of eight points, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This is the largest decrease reported by the NAEP in its 32-year history, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The average score for fourth-graders dropped by five points, according to the assessment.

“[T]he media and policy makers have been focused on the short run costs of COVID including unemployment and store closures, but these business cycle costs are much, much less than the long run costs to the individuals and to the economy. Unfortunately, these long run costs will not be fully apparent until it is too late to deal with them,” Hanushek told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “There is a real urgency because the cohort that has been harmed has continued to move out of school, making remediation much more difficult.  Finally, these costs will be permanent unless we make schools better than they were before the pandemic hit.”

A student sits at a desk as 2nd and 3rd grade students attend class in person at an art gallery turned learning pod on October 01, 2020 in New York City.

A student sits at a desk as 2nd and 3rd grade students attend class in person at an art gallery turned learning pod on October 01, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Kevin J. Dykema, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics president, told the WSJ that students are struggling to keep up with math lessons because they were encouraged to memorize information during the pandemic rather than learn concepts. He also said that students are struggling to work in group settings and often require more tutoring.

“It’s because they were used to just sitting in front of a computer screen,” he said.

In total, students could lose up to $70,000 in lifetime earnings, according to the Wall Street Journal. The cumulative loss accumulated over the century could amount to $28 trillion.

“As a researcher, I thought that the magnitude of the learning loss was not well understood,” Hanushek said. “I have spent much of my career as an economist trying to understand the economic value of schooling and trying to find ways to improve the schools.  Thus, addressing the future financial aspects of the pandemic was a natural extension of my on-going research.”

At the beginning of 2020, 77% of public elementary and secondary schools moved to a remote setting, the National Center for Education Statistics reported. Additionally, 26% of adults with school-aged children claimed that their student attended tutoring sessions or summer programs during summer 2021 to make up for learning losses.

The NAEP and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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