Broadband Internet Access: A Double-Edged Sword for K-12 Education?
Posted: 3 May 2018 Last revised: 4 Mar 2019
Date Written: April 14, 2018
Parents invest a considerable portion of their household income ensuring Internet connectivity to supplement their child’s K-12 education, and many are vocal advocates of increasing Internet access in their child’s public school. The underlying belief is that Internet access improves academic outcomes through increased information access and richness. Yet, comprehensive evidence that can provide useful guidance to parents, educators, and regulators is sparse. The authors study the impact of broadband Internet availability on two specific academic outcomes: academic achievement and school discipline. The authors use social cognitive theory (SCT) to develop the predictions and test them using a longitudinal dataset on broadband Internet availability and school performance metrics in 8,210 public schools in Texas between 2000 and 2014. Their empirical approach uses a range of identification strategies including an instrumental variable (IV) approach. Results show while a 10% increase in Internet access is associated with an improvement of average SAT scores by 0.8% (8.2 points), it also increases the number of disciplinary placements by 3.6% (amounting to a $12-30 million yearly cost increase). These effects are altered as school-level racial heterogeneity increases, such that the deleterious effect of expanding Internet access on school discipline is enhanced, while the positive effect of Internet access on academic achievement is attenuated. Parents and public school administrators could use these findings to better manage the academic consequences of Internet access for students.
Keywords: consumption of education, internet access, observational data, instrumental variable, SAT scores, school discipline, K-12 Education
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