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How Missed Literacy Skills in Childhood Could Impact Trillions in Future U.S. Economy

The result of children who missed out in the development of foundational literacy skills during the pandemic could cost youth hundreds of billions of dollars in future earnings and the U.S. economy trillions in lost activity, a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds.

According to 2024 KIDS COUNT Data Book released today (54 pages, PDF)— https://assets.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-2024kidscountdatabook-2024.pdf

The foundation’s annual assessment of the well-being of children through national and state economic, education, health, and family and community data—in 2022, only 26 percent of eighth graders were rated at or above proficient levels in math (down from 33 percent in 2019), 32 percent of fourth graders were at or above proficient in reading (down from 34 percent in 2019), and 30 percent of all students—14.7 million—were chronically absent, nearly double pre-pandemic rates of 16 percent in 2018-19. Moreover, unprecedented drops in learning from 2019 to 2022 amounted to decades of lost progress.

The Casey Foundation report contends that the pandemic is not solely to blame for the country’s worsening educational outcomes—educators, researchers, policy makers, and employers who track students’ academic readiness have been ringing alarm bells for many years. U.S. scores in reading and math have barely budged in decades.

According to the foundation, up to $31 trillion in U.S. economic activity hinges on helping young people complete learning delayed by the pandemic. Research indicates that students who don’t advance beyond lower levels of math may be 50 percent more likely to be unemployed after high school. One analysis calculates that the drop in math scores between 2019 and 2022 will reduce lifetime earnings by 1.6 percent for 48 million pandemic-era students, for a total of $900 billion in lost income.

“Kids of all ages and grades must have what they need to learn each day, such as enough food and sleep and a safe way to get to school, as well as the additional resources they might need to perform at their highest potential and thrive, like tutoring and mental health services,” said Annie E. Casey Foundation president and CEO Lisa Hamilton. “Our policies and priorities have not focused on these factors in preparing young people for the economy, short-changing a whole generation.”

Author: World Literacy Foundation
Source: https://assets.aecf.org/