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Higher Chronic Absenteeism Threatens Academic Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Dee, Thomas Sean

    (Stanford University)


The broad and substantial educational harm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has motivated large federal, state, and local investments in academic recovery. However, the success of these efforts depends in part on students’ regular school attendance. Using newly collected data, I show that the rate of chronic absenteeism among U.S. public-school students grew substantially as students returned to in-person instruction. Specifically, between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 school years, the share of students chronically absent grew by 13.5 percentage points—a 91-percent increase that implies an additional 6.5 million students are now chronically absent. Enrollment loss, COVID-19 case rates, and school masking policies are not associated with the state-level growth in chronic absenteeism. This suggests the sharp rise in chronic absenteeism reflects other important barriers to learning (e.g., declining youth mental health, academic disengagement) that merit further scrutiny and policy responses.

Suggested Citation

  • Dee, Thomas Sean, 2023. "Higher Chronic Absenteeism Threatens Academic Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic," OSF Preprints bfg3p, Center for Open Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:osf:osfxxx:bfg3p
    DOI: 10.31219/

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