Information Shocks and Internet Silos: Evidence from Creationist Friendly Curriculum
44 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2017
Date Written: July 25, 2017
How the Internet affects the ability of its users to seek out information which either supports or contradicts their existing beliefs remains an open question. On the one hand, the Internet should be able to supply information which might correct falsifiable beliefs. On the other hand, as users control the manner of their search, they may find sources which support their beliefs, even if those beliefs go against the mainstream consensus. To examine this, we analyze the effect of the Louisiana Science Education Act (2008), which allowed the teaching of creationism as an alternative ‘theory’ to evolution in Louisiana schools, on students’ science test scores in nationally administered tests. Using detailed data on Louisiana schools, we employ a difference-in-differences strategy to document that science test scores declined after the law relative to schools in neighboring Texas. After the change in policy, Louisiana students were more likely to seek out information on the Internet using search terms which led them to web pages that reinforced a creationist message. The effect of the law was primarily driven by regions with high Internet penetration and low parental education levels.
Keywords: Evolution, Creationism, Internet, Test Scores, Louisiana Science Education Act
JEL Classification: I21, I28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation