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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.

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  • 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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    Cited by:

    1. Carolin Linckh & Caroline Neuber-Pohl & Harald Pfeifer, 2023. "The employment effects of raising negotiated minimum wages for apprentices," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0202, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
    2. Malte Sandner & Alexander Patzina & Silke Anger & Sarah Bernhard & Hans Dietrich, 2023. "The COVID-19 pandemic, well-being, and transitions to post-secondary education," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 21(2), pages 461-483, June.
    3. Petri Bockerman & Mika Haapanen & Christopher Jepsen, 2021. "Dark Passage: Mental Health Consequences of Parental Death," Working Papers 202107, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
    4. Katharina Werner & Ludger Woessmann, 2021. "The Legacy of Covid-19 in Education," CESifo Working Paper Series 9358, CESifo.
    5. Danzer, Natalia & Garcia-Torres, Sebastian & Steinhardt, Max F. & Stella, Luca, 2023. "Women in Political Power and School Closure during COVID Times," IZA Discussion Papers 15975, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Stefan Lamp, 2023. "Sunspots That Matter: The Effect of Weather on Solar Technology Adoption," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 84(4), pages 1179-1219, April.
    7. 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).
    8. 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).
    9. Anna Godøy & Maja Weemes Grøtting & Rannveig Kaldager Hart, 2022. "Reopening schools in a context of low COVID-19 contagion: consequences for teachers, students and their parents," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 35(3), pages 935-961, July.
    10. Philipp Breidenbach & Timo Mitze, 2022. "Large-scale sport events and COVID-19 infection effects: evidence from the German professional football ‘experiment’ [Semiparametric difference-in-differences estimators]," The Econometrics Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 25(1), pages 15-45.
    11. Alexander Cuntz & Matthias Sahli, 2021. "COVID-19 Impact on Artistic Income," WIPO Economic Research Working Papers 65, World Intellectual Property Organization - Economics and Statistics Division.

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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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