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Applied Microeconomics Group Seminar Racial Differences in Parent Response to COVID Schooling Policies

Speaker: Professor Brian Jacob, University of Michigan and NBER

Abstract: In this paper, we re-examine the relationship between COVID schooling policies and student enrolment, with a particular focus on differential responses by race and ethnicity. Using data on over 9,000 districts that serve 90% of public school students in the U.S., we first calculate deviations from pre-pandemic enrolment trends separately by district subgroup. We then estimate differential responses to school policies across races within districts, controlling for a range of observable characteristics that may be correlated with school policies and enrolment changes, including local COVID severity and COVID prevention measures, as well as a host of social, economic, and political.
characteristics. We find that enrolment responses to COVID policies differed notably by race. While White enrolment declined more in districts that started the 2020-21 school year virtually, Black enrolment declined more in districts that started the 2021 school year in person. Moreover, in counties with higher COVID-19 death rates in the months preceding the start of the 2021 school year, both Black and Hispanic enrolments declined at a faster rate than White students in the same districts. In districts with mask requirements, White, Black, and Hispanic enrolment declines in 2021-22 were relatively similar. In contrast, when districts did not require masks at the start of the school year, Black enrolments remained nearly twice as far below the trend as White enrolments, particularly in districts that had previously been in-person or hybrid.

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