Broadband and Student Performance Gaps
59 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2020
Date Written: March 3, 2020
Launched in 2019, this study was designed to understand the repercussions of absent or poor home Internet connectivity on student performance and the associated costs to society. The focus was on Internet connectivity outside of school among middle and high school students enrolled in rural and small-town schools. Inequalities related to income and race are often used to explain why some people still do not have Internet or broadband access at home. Often overlooked in this discussion is the role of geography and varying levels of infrastructure access. Our research design allowed to disentangle these factors.
Data for this project are based on a survey of students in grades 8-11 from fifteen predominately rural Michigan school districts. Between May and June 2019, 3,258 students from fifteen school districts in twenty-one schools across 173 classrooms completed the project survey; they represented 70.6% of students aged 13 and older in grades 8-11 in the participating districts. Following the survey, classroom teachers assigned students an optional homework assignment that consisted of an online speed test. Eight of the school districts that participated in this project also provided de-identified standardized student test scores that were matched with students’ responses to the project survey.
Independently of socio-demographic factors, students who do not have access to the Internet from home or are solely dependent on a cell phone for access perform lower on a range of metrics, including digital skills, homework completion, and grade point average. They are also less likely to intend on attending college or university. A deficit in digital skills compounds many of the inequalities in access and contributes to students performing lower on standardized tests such as the SAT, and being less interested in careers related to science, technology, engineering, and math. Thus, students without high-speed broadband access experience disadvantages that have potentially lifelong repercussions.
Keywords: broadband, mobile broadband, infrastructure access, homework gap, digital skills, digital inequalities
JEL Classification: L86, L96, H54, I28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation