Broadband and Student Performance Gaps

59 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2020

See all articles by Keith Hampton

Keith Hampton

Michigan State University - Quello Center

Laleah Fernandez

Michigan State University - Quello Center

Craig Robertson

Michigan State University - College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Johannes M. Bauer

Michigan State University-Department of Media and Information

Date Written: March 3, 2020

Abstract

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

Hampton, Keith and Fernandez, Laleah and Robertson, Craig and Bauer, Johannes M., Broadband and Student Performance Gaps (March 3, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3614074 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3614074

Keith Hampton (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - Quello Center ( email )

406 Communication Arts Building
404 Wilson Road
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212
United States

Laleah Fernandez

Michigan State University - Quello Center ( email )

406 Communication Arts Building
404 Wilson Road
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212
United States

Craig Robertson

Michigan State University - College of Communication Arts and Sciences ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States

Johannes M. Bauer

Michigan State University-Department of Media and Information ( email )

409 Communication Arts Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212
United States
517-355-8372 (Phone)
517-355-1292 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.msu.edu/~bauerj

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