Substantial educational inequalities have been documented in Germany for decades. In this article, we examine whether educational inequalities among children have increased or remained the same since the school closures of spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our perspective is longitudinal: We compare the amount of time children in secondary schools spent on school-related activities at home before the pandemic, during school closures, and immediately after returning to in-person learning. We operationalize family socio-economic status using the highest parental educational attainment. Based on the theoretical assumption that the pandemic affected everyone equally, we formulate a hypothesis of equalization during the first period of school closures. For the period thereafter, however, we assume that parents with a low level of education had more difficulties bearing the additional burden of supervising and supporting their children’s learning activities. Thus, for that period, we postulate an increase in educational inequality. To study our hypotheses, we use data from the 2019 wave of the SOEP and the SOEP-CoV study, both of which are probability samples. The SOEP-CoV study provides a unique database, as it was conducted during the lockdown of spring 2020 and in the following month. For statistical analysis, we use probit regressions at three measurement points (in 2019, in 2020 during the school closures, and in the month after closures). The comparison of these three time points makes our analysis and findings unique in the research on education during the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular with regard to Germany-wide comparisons. Our results confirm the hypothesis of equalization during the first school closures and the hypothesis of an increase in educational in the subsequent period. Our findings have direct policy implications regarding the need to further expand support systems for children.
Keywords: Educational inequalities, school closures, learning time, secondary-age children, parental education