The Effects of Home Computers on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Schoolchildren
37 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2011
Date Written: October 2011
Are home computers are an important input in the educational production function? To address this question, we conduct a field experiment involving the provision of free computers to schoolchildren for home use. Low-income children attending middle and high schools in 15 schools in California were randomly selected to receive free computers and followed over the school year. The results indicate that the experiment substantially increased computer ownership and total computer use among the schoolchildren with no substitution away from use at school or other locations outside the home. We find no evidence that the home computers improved educational outcomes for the treatment group. From detailed administrative data provided by the schools and a follow-up survey, we find no evidence of positive effects on a comprehensive set of outcomes such as grades, test scores, credits, attendance, school enrollment, computer skills, and college aspirations. The estimates also do not indicate that the effects of home computers on educational outcomes are instead negative. Our estimates are precise enough to rule out even modestly-sized positive or negative impacts. The lack of a positive net effect on educational outcomes may be due to displacement from non-educational uses such as for games, social networking, and entertainment. We find evidence that total hours of computer use for games and social networking increases substantially with having a home computer, and increases more than total hours of computer use for schoolwork.
Keywords: Computers, education, technology, experiment
JEL Classification: I24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation