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The Role of Schools in Transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Germany


  • Clara von Bismarck-Osten

    (University College London)

  • Kirill Borusyak

    (University College London and CEPR)

  • Uta Schönberg

    (University College London, CReAM, IAB and RWI)


This paper considers the role of school closures in the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. To isolate the impact of the closures from other containment measures and identify a causal effect, we exploit variation in the start and end dates of the summer school and fall holiday across the 16 federal states in Germany. Leveraging a difference-in-differences design with staggered adoption, we show that neither the summer closures nor the closures in the fall have had any significant containing effect on the spread of SARS-CoV-2 among children or any spill-over effect on older generations. We also do not find any evidence that the return to school at full capacity after the summer holidays increased infections among children or adults. Instead, we find the number of children infected increased during the last weeks of the summer holiday and decreased in the first weeks after schools reopen, a pattern we attribute to travel returnees and increased testing.

Suggested Citation

  • Clara von Bismarck-Osten & Kirill Borusyak & Uta Schönberg, 2020. "The Role of Schools in Transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Germany," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 2022, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  • Handle: RePEc:crm:wpaper:2022

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Clément de Chaisemartin & Xavier D'Haultfœuille, 2020. "Two-Way Fixed Effects Estimators with Heterogeneous Treatment Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(9), pages 2964-2996, September.
    2. Alon, Titan & Doepke, Matthias & Olmstead-Rumsey, Jane & Tertilt, Michèle, 2020. "This Time It's Different: The Role of Women's Employment in a Pandemic Recession," IZA Discussion Papers 13562, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Jérôme Adda, 2016. "Economic Activity and the Spread of Viral Diseases: Evidence from High Frequency Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(2), pages 891-941.
    4. Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln & Moritz Kuhn & Michèle Tertilt, 2020. "The Short-Run Macro Implications of School and Child-Care Closures," CRC TR 224 Discussion Paper Series crctr224_2020_183, University of Bonn and University of Mannheim, Germany.
    5. Sergio Correia & Paulo Guimarães & Tom Zylkin, 2020. "Fast Poisson estimation with high-dimensional fixed effects," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 20(1), pages 95-115, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Backhaus, Andreas, 2022. "International travel in times of the COVID-19 pandemic: The case of German school breaks," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 44(C).
    2. Isphording, Ingo E. & Lipfert, Marc & Pestel, Nico, 2021. "Does re-opening schools contribute to the spread of SARS-CoV-2? Evidence from staggered summer breaks in Germany," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 198(C).

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    More about this item


    Covid Economics; School Closures; Public Health;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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