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back in school during coronavirus

Liz Dibley, Senior Research Analyst

Our YouthBeat® panelists have had a lot to say about going to school this fall through our Say What? Video Journals. 

Really, though, it’s more about “back in school” this year than “back to school”; and brands are making efforts to mitigate the somber, yet uncertain, tone of the times. According to 600 parents surveyed July 29th - August 3rd, 2020, plans are still up in the air for some as schools vary in how they will go back to being in session this fall. 

When looking at school district plans by census region, schools in the Midwest are most likely to decide to go back to school fully in person. Those in the South lean towards a hybrid model where parents are given a choice for in-person instruction or e-learning. Meanwhile, schools in the Northeast are still undecided, and those in the West are likely to be fully e-learning in the fall of 2020.

Back to school during covid research

Luckily, parents’ preferences match what schools are deciding, with those in the Midwest wanting their child to return to fully in-person learning while parents in the Northeast are still uncertain. Though most schools in the South give parents the option for how they want their child to learn, parents in this region say they prefer full-time e-learning for their child.

Back to school during coronavirus research

Having a choice matters with parents in the South, and these parents are also more likely to say their children will receive the same level of learning opportunities this year compared to normal school times. Those in the West are least optimistic about schooling right now and don’t think their child will receive a comparable education.

back in school covid-19

Four in ten parents plan on sending their children to school with extra sanitation supplies (e.g., masks and sanitizer) when they’re receiving face-to-face instruction.* A fifth of parents will be facilitating socialization for their child outside of school.* Emphasizing socialization at this time has been lauded by experts who point to the importance of social emotional growth during adolescence, which usually happens while youth interact with their peers. There are even lesson plans teachers or parents can use to help supplement this area, which likely has been hampered over the past few months. Unsurprisingly, families with higher incomes ($200k+) are more likely to hire help, such as an e-learning tutor (24%) or a nanny for when the child will be at home (24%).*

back in school coronavirus

Parents and youth are still doing back-to-school shopping this year, and teens are most likely to care about looking good face-to-face or via Zoom -- they are also the most likely to go clothes shopping in person. There’s a trend towards college students updating their rooms while studying from home and a trickle-down effect with younger students wanting a study space of their own at home. School supplies involve everything from organization containers to furniture this year.

back in school 2020 research

In addition to variation by age, back-to-school shopping also varies by ethnicity, with Hispanic families more likely to order online from shoe and accessory stores. New kicks are paramount purchases with over half of Hispanic youth (56%) planning on spending the same or more on shoes this season.* Online grocery store shopping is also more popular for Hispanic families than Black or Non-Hispanic White families.  

back in school during pandemic

While back-to-school plans fluctuate across the country this year, students are excited to go back, and families are still planning on engaging in traditional back-to-school shopping. Parents are prioritizing safety for their children and are seeking out sanitation products, while younger kids are looking for anything to break up the monotony of being at home more than usual this summer. They thrive off things they can look forward to, like new snacks or a shiny pencil box. Older teens are eager to make their study space their own as well as show off their individual style through what they wear.    

Want to know more? Register for C+R’s September 30th Consumer Connections panel, where we’ll be talking to parents about how things are going for them and their families and what brands are making the right impact right now. And, YouthBeat® subscribers can access our Say What? Video Journals for ongoing seasonal insights.

*Source: YouthBeat® Parent Back-To-School Poll, August 2020
↑ = indicates a significant increase at 95% confidence level compared across category in chart
↓ = indicates a significant decrease at 95% confidence level compared across category in chart


In case you missed them, please make sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of our Back to School Shuffle blogs.  Also, please watch our consumer panel from September 30, focusing on Back To School as we continue our Consumer Connections Series. 

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