This paper estimates the effect of school closures in the spring of 2020 on the math skills of primary school children in Italy, which was the first Western country hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, responding with a strict lockdown and total school closures through the end of the school year. Leveraging unique longitudinal data collected in the province of Torino, a large metropolitan area in northern Italy, we analyse the learning outcomes of two adjacent cohorts of pupils, the pre-Covid and the Covid cohort. The pandemic had a large mean negative impact on pupils’ performance in mathematics (−0.19 standard deviations). Learning loss was greater for girls and for high-achieving children of low-educated parents. Net of individual characteristics, the impact was harshest in schools with a disadvantaged social composition.
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