Are school closures due to COVID-19 putting the learning of children from lower income households at risk?

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Bottom Line:

Widespread school closures places the health and learning needs of children in lower income households at risk.


Lancker, W.V. & Parolin, Z. COVID-19, school closures, and child poverty: a social crisis in the making. Lancet Public Health (2020).

Date Published:

7 April 2020


The implementation of school closures across approximately 138 countries in efforts to promote physical distancing have driven school-age children indoors and at home. The approach and access to learning has shifted to digital platforms in response but more focus should be directed towards children living in poverty. The negative implications on children from lower-income households are two-fold. Food insecurity is prevalent affecting 14% of households across the USA. Schools have served as a source of healthy eating with associated benefits in academic performance – however, the suspension of school-provided meals will perpetuate the negative effects of food insecurity on children’s physical and mental well-being. Additionally, gaps in academic performance between children from lower- and higher-income households may be further widened from varying capacities to access learning resources and opportunities. Approximately 2-5% of students have been estimated to lack stable housing in the USA with specific regions reporting increased proportions. For example, New York City reports 10% of students to be homeless or experiencing housing instability. Precarious housing situations impact students’ ability to gain Internet connection, educational resources, and adequate learning environments. Students from lower-income households may be disadvantaged and learning outcomes will suffer. Child poverty should be recognized as a precipitating social crisis in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Policy makers, school administrators, and educators need to address the unique nutritional and learning challenges that children from lower-income households face. 

Summary by: Julia Kim