So what is the actual economic impact of keeping schools closed this fall in the face of the uncertainty surrounding how to address the COVID-19 pandemic?
One factor is what happens when an adult caregiver is forced to stay home and attented to a child. In that scenario, the economic output that adult is essentially lost and an analysis of that loss using the “human capital method” ( or HCM) or the “friction cost method” (FCM).
A relatively recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health survey found that 51% of respondents who count school children among their household members said it was “likely” that at least one adult in their home would miss work if schools were forced to close for a stretch of two weeks.
In the U.S., up to 23% of all private sector workers live in households which include a child under 16 – and include no permanent stay-at-home adults.
The NIH says in a baseline scenario, more than 52% of these kinds of workers will miss at least some work hours to care for children and that in total 10% of total labor hours in the civilian U.S. economy will be lost during a period of extended school closure.
In the event a majority of workers can react to closures using informal childcare, some 3% of all labor-hours in the civilian U.S. economy will be lost.
The NIH says that given their baseline estimates, closing schools for a month will reduce the U.S. GDP to the tune of $43 billion dollars. A higher cost scenario sets that total loss at $47 billion dollars.