Research / BFI Working PaperMar 29, 2021

The Incidence and Magnitude of the Health Costs of In-person Schooling during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The health costs of in-person schooling during the pandemic, if any, fall primarily on the families of students, largely due to the fact that students significantly outnumber teachers. Data from North Carolina, Wisconsin, Australia, England, and Israel covering almost 80 million person-days in school help assess the magnitude of the fatality risks of in-person schooling (with mitigation protocols), accounting for the age and living arrangements of students and teachers. The risks of in-person schooling to teachers are comparable to the risks of commuting by automobile. Valued at a VSL of $10 million, the average daily fatality cost ranges from $0.01 for an unvaccinated young teacher living alone to as much as $29 for an elderly and unvaccinated teacher living with an elderly and unvaccinated spouse. COVID-19 risk avoidance may also be more amenable to Bayesian updating and selective protection than automobile fatalities are. The results suggest that economic behaviors can sometimes invert epidemiological patterns when it comes to the spread of infectious diseases in human populations.

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