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Long COVID for Public Schools: Chronic Absenteeism Before and After the Pandemic

American Enterprise Institute

January 31, 2024

Key Points

  • Consistent attendance is key to student success, but post-pandemic attendance has been far from consistent. Nationwide, chronic absenteeism—the percentage of students missing at least 10 percent of a school year—surged from 15 percent in 2018 to 28 percent in 2022.
  • Falling in 33 of 39 states reporting data, chronic absenteeism rates improved in 2023 but still remained 75 percent higher than the pre-pandemic baseline.
  • Chronic absenteeism increased for all district types, but rates were highest in districts with low achievement and higher poverty, affecting over one in three students.
  • In 2022, 16 percent of Asian students and 24 percent of white students were chronically absent, compared to 36 percent of Hispanic students and 39 percent of black students.
  • The urgent need to recover from pandemic learning loss will be severely hampered by current rates of chronic absenteeism, making it the most pressing post-pandemic problem in public schools.

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