Unequal Opportunity Spreaders: Higher COVID-19 Deaths with Later School Closure in the United States

Authors
Emily Rauscher,
Ailish Burns
Year of publication
2021
Publication
Sociological Perspectives

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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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 to 2.4 percent 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.

Suggested Citation:

Rauscher, E., & Burns, A. (2021). Unequal Opportunity Spreaders: Higher COVID-19 Deaths with Later School Closure in the United States. Sociological Perspectives