- AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR ECONOMIC RESEARCH - Nov 9, 2020 -
On March 12, 2020, the memo went out from the pen of Carter Mecher, bioterrorism expert advising the Veterans Administration. It went out to public health officials and others from around the nation. Close the schools. Pull the trigger now. And it happened, and with it, civic freedoms we have long taken for granted – freedom to travel, operate businesses, go to the movies, even leave our homes – were taken away.
They shut the schools. Then it was like dominos falling, one by one. The businesses had to close so that people could watch the kids at home. The shopping centers had to close because otherwise the kids would just gather there. The churches too. Entertainment venues were shut. Even parks closed. The stay-at-home orders followed from the school closures. In many ways, the whole legitimacy of lockdown hinged on the merit of the school closure.
A small group of pro-lockdown scientists cheered, as their decade-and-a-half-old dream of conducting such a social experiment was finally becoming a reality.
The school closures had a disproportionate effect on working women. They left their jobs to care for the kids, attempting to help them navigate the strange new world of Zoom classrooms and do assignments via email. Men stayed working in jobs as the primary breadwinners.
As the Washington Post reports:
The pandemic recession [lockdowns] has been dubbed a “she-session” because it has hurt women far worse than men. The share of women working or looking for work has fallen to the lowest level since 1988, wiping out decades of hard-fought gains in the workplace.
On Friday, the Labor Department’s jobs report showed that the economy has gained back just over half of the jobs lost in March and April, but the situation remains dire for women. There are 2.2 million fewer women working or looking for work now than in January, vs. 1.5 million fewer men, according to the Labor Department data.
In nine months of this hell, one might suppose there would have been a clear test of whether and to what extent severe outcomes from catching the virus were really associated with school attendance. It has finally arrived, and the news is not good for the lockdowners.
It is by now obvious (and has been since February) that almost no children are in danger from the virus. The age/health gradient of the virus affects almost exclusively the elderly with comorbidities. The children might have been helpful in achieving good public health goals and burning out the virus, rather than losing almost a full year of quality schooling thus far, to say nothing of the trauma of mandatory masks and being taught that their friends are potentially pathogen-carrying enemies.