BACKGROUND: School closures were widely implemented in Argentina during the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the economic impact of school closures on households, their effectiveness in preventing children from engaging in social group activities, and parental attitudes toward them.
METHODS: Three schools that closed for 2 weeks in response to the pandemic were identified in two socioeconomically distinct cities in Argentina. All households with children enrolled in these schools were surveyed. Direct and indirect costs attributable to closures were estimated from the household perspective. Other information collected included children activities during the closures and parental attitudes toward the intervention.
RESULTS: Completed questionnaires were returned by 45% of surveyed households. Direct and indirect costs due to closures represented 11% of imputed monthly household income in the city with lower socioeconomic status, and 3% in the other city (P=0·01). Non-childcare expenses and loss of workdays were more common in the city with lower socioeconomic status. Childcare expenses were less common and were experienced by a similar percentage of households in both cities. About three-quarters of respondents in both cities agreed with the closures. The main concern among those who disagreed with closures was their negative impact on education. Children in more than two-thirds of affected households left their home at least once during the closures to spend time in public places.
CONCLUSION: School closures may more significantly impact low-income households. Authorities should consider the range of economic impacts of school closures among families when planning their implementation.