The Revealed Preferences for School Reopening: Evidence from Public-School Disenrollment


Thomas S. Dee


Elizabeth Huffaker


Cheryl Philips


Eric Sagara

Year of Publication: 

Before the 2020-21 school year, educators, policymakers, and parents confronted the stark and uncertain trade-offs implied by the health, educational, and economic consequences of offering instruction remotely, in person, or through a hybrid of the two. Most public schools in the U.S. chose remote-only instruction and enrollment fell dramatically (i.e., a loss of roughly 1.1 million K-12 students). We examine the impact of these choices on public-school enrollment using unique panel data that combine district-level enrollment trajectories with information on their instructional modes. We find offering remote-only instead of in-person instruction reduced enrollment by 1.1 percentage points (i.e., a 42 percent increase in disenrollment from -2.6 to -3.7 percent). The disenrollment effects of remote instruction are concentrated in kindergarten and, to a lesser extent, elementary schools. We do not find consistent evidence that remote instruction influenced middle or high-school enrollment or that hybrid instruction had an impact.

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APA Citation

Dee, T.S., Huffaker, E., Philips, C., & Sagara, E. (2021). The Revealed Preferences for School Reopening: Evidence from Public-School Disenrollment.

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