GovEx researcher collaborates on study that finds student mask mandates linked to politics, location, demographics

Sep 6, 2023 | Blog

A team of Johns Hopkins University-affiliated education, public health, and data experts found that school mask mandates during the 2021-22 school year were most significantly related to political, demographic, and geographic characteristics, not the number of COVID-19 cases in a given community.

Andrew Nicklin, a senior research data manager for GovEx, worked with the team at the eSchool+ Initiative to create the dataset and visualize results for the study (Predictors of student mask mandate policies in United States school districts during the COVID-19 pandemic).

“[The eSchool+ team was saying ] we know that COVID is affecting our education system and is likely doing it in inequitable ways,” Nicklin said. “We were trying to navigate how school districts are influenced by state policy.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic put a new emphasis on collecting and publishing real-time data in ways that are meaningful to the average person, Nicklin said. His support of the masking study was a logical extension of the data leadership and resources GovEx was already providing to the Coronavirus Resource Center.

Researchers analyzed a sample of masking policies in 56 school districts over four months during the 2021 – 2022 school year and found that while policies changed over time, student mask mandates were more likely to happen in states with Democratic governors and in non-rural areas. 

The study also found that districts with larger portions of minoritized racial/ethnic groups were more likely to have mask mandates, but that the actual number of COVID-19 cases in a community did not influence mask mandates at any point.  

Colleagues from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University School of Education, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics worked on the study.

Nicklin also helped that team analyze global data of the pandemic’s impact on education and supported another Hopkins initiative tracking COVID-19 vaccine policies around the globe for pregnant and lactating people.