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Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement
Does differential access to computer technology at home compound the educational disparities between the rich and the poor? Would a program of government provision of computers to early secondary school students reduce these disparities? This study covers years 2000 to 2005, a period when home computers and high-speed Internet access expanded dramatically. Using administrative data on North Carolina public school students to corroborate earlier surveys that document broad racial and socioeconomic gaps in home computer access and use, the authors compared the children's reading and math scores before and after they acquired a home computer, and compared these scores to those of peers who had a home computer by fifth grade and to test scores of students who never acquired a home computer. The introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores. The authors also conclude that home computers are put to more productive use in households where parental monitoring is more effective. Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high-speed internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps.
Keywords: Reading Achievement, Technology, Achievement Gap
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