School closures during the 2020 pandemic forced countries to rapidly adopt distance learning, with uncertain effects on education inequalities. Using PISA 2018 data from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, we find that students unable to learn remotely, because of a lack of ICT resources or of a quiet place to study, experience significant cognitive losses that, everything else equal, range from 70 percent of a school year in the United Kingdom to 50 percent in Italy. Similar results are found by considering days of absence from school. In the longer run, students who cannot learn remotely are more likely to end their education early and repeat grades, especially in Spain, Germany and Italy. The distribution of cognitive losses is linked to countries' educational systems; hence, policies aiming to enhance e-learning by focusing on disadvantaged students and schools should be designed accordingly.
Covid-19 educational economics inequality PISA human capital