There’s a growing consensus that the Covid shutdowns of schools not only did more harm than good, but that the detrimental impacts will be felt for a generation or more. Some of that cost can be calculated with a fair amount of precision. That’s according to Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, who I spoke with in California.
The following is a transcript of a report from “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.” Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
Sharyl: Can you take a sample kid, just a hypothetical, and say, a child at age seven, eight, nine, whatever you want to pick, who lost three years of good, solid learning, and kind of project how this plays out hypothetically?
Eric Hanushek: We can do that very precisely. We can project very easily, because we know how much skills are rewarded in the labor market, and we now have recent data for the U.S. about how much lower kids who are subject to the closures and the disruption in the pandemic are learning, compared to kids before the pandemic, and I think kids after the pandemic.
So this cohort of students, unless we do something pretty dramatic, is going to end up with lower skills than the people next to them. That is going to cost the average kid 5.6% of their lifetime earnings, according to what we know about the payoff in the labor market. It’s going to cost disadvantaged kids a lot more than the average because we know that disadvantaged kids had a harder time during Covid, and the learning losses are larger for them.
Sharyl: So, you’re basically saying that, looking at what their income can be as a productive, working adult, what it will be for the Covid cohort versus what it has been for the others, their lifetime earnings?
Hanushek: Absolutely, absolutely. We’re comparing what kids will look like when they get out into the labor market, according to historical patterns of what’s rewarded in the labor market, so we have pretty good estimates of that.
Sharyl: How much does a person earn over their lifetime, on average?
Eric Hanushek: Something around, $1.5 million in current day terms. And there’s another story, and that is, that if we look across nations, nations that have more skilled populations grow faster, and economic growth is what leads us to have higher incomes than our parents and what leads our kids to have higher incomes than we have. It’s the increase in well-being.
The U.S. economy, if we look out into the future and then bring that back to today’s dollars, is going to lose something like $28 trillion. Now, nobody knows what a trillion dollars means, except for the fact that our annual gross domestic product, GDP, is about $25 trillion. So this is more than one year’s total production in the United States, from their Covid losses. Again, unless we do something about this.
Sharyl: So what do you suggest could be done, and do you predict that action will be taken on this front?
Hanushek: My answer, which has not been accepted in many places, is to emphasize using our effective teachers more. We know that there are huge differences among teachers in terms of how effective they are in learning, and if we in fact provided incentives for the most effective teachers to teach more kids, and remove the least effective teachers from teaching kids, we could improve the quality of the school system. We could make up for these differences.
Now, I should say, this is an idea that has not caught on in the U.S. because people have been concentrating on, “Well, let’s just do what we’ve always done. Maybe a little bit more of what we’ve always done.” And that’s not working.
Sharyl (on-camera): Former White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said in an interview that he’s not to blame for the Covid shutdowns. And the leader of a major teachers union, who pressed for schools to stay closed, recently claimed she did no such thing.
Watch story here.
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