The Effects of Home Computers on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Community College Students

47 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2014

See all articles by Robert W. Fairlie

Robert W. Fairlie

University of California, Santa Cruz - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research

Rebecca A. London

Stanford University

Date Written: December 30, 2013

Abstract

There is no clear theoretical prediction regarding whether home computers are an important input in the educational production function. To investigate the hypothesis that access to a home computer affects educational outcomes, we conduct the first-ever field experiment involving the provision of free computers to students for home use. Financial aid students attending a large community college in Northern California were randomly selected to receive free computers and were followed for two years. Although estimates for a few measures are imprecise and cannot rule out zero effects, we find some evidence that the treatment group achieved better educational outcomes than the control group. The estimated effects, however, are not large. We also provide some evidence that students initially living farther from campus benefit more from the free computers than students living closer to campus. Home computers appear to improve students’ computer skills and may increase the use of computers at non-traditional times. The estimated effects of home computers on educational outcomes from the experiment are smaller than the positive estimates reported in previous studies. Using matched CPS data, we find estimates of educational effects that are considerably larger than the experimental estimates.

Keywords: technology, computers, community college, education

JEL Classification: J240

Suggested Citation

Fairlie, Robert W. and London, Rebecca A., The Effects of Home Computers on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Community College Students (December 30, 2013). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 4523, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2378232

Robert W. Fairlie (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Cruz - Department of Economics ( email )

Department of Economics
Engineering 2 Bldg.
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
United States
831-459-3332 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://people.ucsc.edu/~rfairlie/

National Bureau of Economic Research ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/people/robert_fairlie?page=1&perPage=50

Rebecca A. London

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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