The fourteenth session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on May 13, 2021. Yusaku Horiuchi (Dartmouth College) chaired the seminar and moderated the question and answer session.

Kentaro Fukumoto (Gakushuin University), Charles T. McCLean (Harvard University), and Kuninori Nakagawa (Shizuoka University) presented their paper, “Shut Down Schools, Knock Down the Virus? No Causal Effect of School Closures on the Spread of COVID-19.” In their presentation, Fukumoto and colleagues explored whether school closures actually reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, a highly relevant policy question that previous studies have yet to resolve. Fukumoto, McClean, and Nakagawa approach this question using matching methods to compare Japanese municipalities which imposed school closures in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic against those which kept local schools open. Surprisingly, Fukumoto and colleagues find that school closures did not reduce local infection rates. Their results suggest that policies on school closures should be reexamined given the potential negative consequences for children and parents.

Discussant comments were offered by Kenneth Mori McElwain (University of Tokyo) and Yusaku Horiuchi (Dartmouth College). The discussion raised interesting questions about the efficacy of policy responses to COVID-19 as well as research methods. The discussants and the audience also offered many constructive suggestions pertaining to research methods and possible future directions of the research.

This event attracted many participants and produced an engaging Q&A session. The organizers would like to thank the presenters, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: https://jposs.org/